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A microelectromechanical system (MEMS) turbocharger has been designed, fabricated, and tested as part of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology program aimed at producing a microfabricated gas turbine engine for portable power applications. A gas turbine engine requires high-speed high-efficiency turbomachinery operating at tip speeds of several hundred meters per second. This MEMS turbocharger serves to demonstrate these requirements. The turbocharger's silicon rotor, which is supported on hydrostatic gas thrust and journal bearings in a silicon stator housing, was spun to 480 000 rpm, corresponding to a tip speed of 200 m/s. This paper discusses critical fabrication processes that enabled the capabilities of this device. Operational issues and test results are also presented. The turbocharger's compressor demonstrated a pressure ratio of 1.21 at a mass flow rate of 0.13 g/s, with a combined compressor-turbine spool efficiency of 0.24. Under these conditions, the turbine produced about 5 W of power. Results from the simultaneous operation of a spinning rotor and burning combustor within the microscale turbocharger are also presented. Experimental results compare well with analytical models and computations.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2008