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3_1_Electromagnetic Bearings

3_1_Electromagnetic Bearings - January 3 2010 Bearings That...

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January 3, 2010 Bearings That Pack a Punch (and Their Own Controls) By ANNE EISENBERG TRAINS that float on air may be the most famous objects borne by magnetic fields. But magnetic forces can also support other, less visible objects: the spinning shafts, for example, hidden at the mechanical core of industrial equipment like pumps, generators, motors and compressors. Electromagnets surround these rotating shafts and keep them suspended in the air — with the help of sensors and computer algorithms that adjust the position of the shafts thousands of times a second, keeping them centered. Magnetic bearings may play an increasingly important role in future industrial systems, including environmentally friendlier ones. The low-friction technology of these bearings eliminates the need for lubrication to keep a system operating smoothly. “With magnetic bearings, there’s no oil in the shaft, no grease, no ball bearings,” said David Trumper, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts
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Institute of Technology . Despite their advantages, magnetic bearings have been slow to catch on widely in industry, said Eric Maslen, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. One reason, he said,
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