RESEARCH PAPERS: Gas Turbines: Aircraft

Investigation of Vapor-Phase Lubrication in a Gas Turbine Engine

[+] Author and Article Information
K. W. Van Treuren, D. N. Barlow, W. H. Heiser

Department of Aeronautics, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO 80840

M. J. Wagner, N. H. Forster

Fuels and Lubrication Division, Aero Propulsion and Power Directorate, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 120(2), 257-262 (Apr 01, 1998) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2818113 History: Received February 01, 1997; Online November 19, 2007


The liquid oil lubrication system of current aircraft jet engines accounts for approximately 10–15 percent of the total weight of the engine. It has long been a goal of the aircraft gas turbine industry to reduce this weight. Vapor-Phase Lubrication (VPL) is a promising technology to eliminate liquid oil lubrication. The current investigation resulted in the first gas turbine to operate in the absence of conventional liquid lubrication. A phosphate ester, commercially known as DURAD 620B, was chosen for the test. Extensive research at Wright Laboratory demonstrated that this lubricant could reliably lubricate rolling element bearings in the gas turbine engine environment. The Allison T63 engine was selected as the test vehicle because of its small size and bearing configuration. Specifically, VPL was evaluated in the number eight bearing because it is located in a relatively hot environment, in line with the combustor discharge, and it can be isolated from the other bearings and the liquid lubrication system. The bearing was fully instrumented and its performance with standard oil lubrication was documented. Results of this baseline study were used to develop a thermodynamic model to predict the bearing temperature with VPL. The engine was then operated at a ground idle condition with VPL with the lubricant misted into the #8 bearing at 13 ml/h. The bearing temperature stabilized at 283°C within 10 minutes. Engine operation was continued successfully for a total of one hour. No abnormal wear of the rolling contact surfaces was found when the bearing was later examined. Bearing temperatures after engine shutdown indicated the bearing had reached thermodynamic equilibrium with its surroundings during the test. After shutdown bearing temperatures steadily decreased without the soakback effect seen after shutdown in standard lubricated bearings. In contrast, the oil-lubricated bearing ran at a considerably lower operating temperature (83°C) and was significantly heated by its surroundings after engine shutdown. In the baseline tests, the final bearing temperatures never reached that of the operating VPL system.

Copyright © 1998 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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