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Development of an Ultrasonic Sensing Technique to Measure Lubricant Viscosity in Engine Journal Bearing In-Situ

Schirru, Michele (2016) Development of an Ultrasonic Sensing Technique to Measure Lubricant Viscosity in Engine Journal Bearing In-Situ. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Text (PhD Thesis)
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This work presents a novel technique to measure viscosity in-situ and in real time in engine component interfaces by means of an ultrasonic technique. Viscosity is a key parameter in the characterization of lubrication regime in engine parts because it can be related to friction in the contact, and to the lubricant film thickness. Ultrasound is a non-destructive and non-invasive technique that is based on the reflection of sound from interfaces. The reflection from a solid-air boundary can identify, for instance, the presence of a crack in a material, while reflection from a solid-liquid interface can help detecting the properties of the liquid sample. Reflection of longitudinal waves measures fluid film thickness and chemical composition, while the reflection of ultrasonic shear waves measures the fluid viscosity. The viscosity measurements based on ultrasonic reflection from solid-fluid boundaries are referred to as reflectance viscometry techniques. Common ultrasonic reflectance viscometry methods can only measure the viscosity of Newtonian fluids. This work introduces a novel model to correlate the ultrasonic shear reflection coefficient with the viscosity of non-Newtonian oils by means of the Maxwell model analogy. This algorithm overcomes the limitation of previous models because it is suitable for the analysis of common engine oils, and because it relies only on measurable parameters. However, viscosity measurements are prohibitive at the metal-oil interfaces in auto engines because when the materials in contact have very different acoustic impedances the sound energy is almost totally reflected, and there is very little interaction between the ultrasonic wave and the lubricant. This phenomenon is called acoustic mismatch. When acoustic mismatch occurs, any valuable information about the liquid properties is buried in measurement noise. To prove this, the common reflectance set-up was tested to measure the viscosity of different lubricants (varying from light base oils to greases) using aluminium as solid boundary. More than 99.5% of the ultrasonic energy was reflected for the different oils, and accurate viscosity measurement was not possible because the sensitivity of the ultrasonic measurement at the current state of the art is of ±0.5%. Consequently, the discrimination by viscosity of the oil tested was not possible. In this study a new approach is developed. The sensitivity of the ultrasonic reflectance method is enhanced with a quarter wavelength matching layer material. This material is interleaved between metal and lubricant to increment the ultrasonic measurement sensitivity. This layer is chosen to have thickness and mechanical properties that induce the ultrasonic wave to resonate at the solid-liquid interface, at specific frequencies. In this work, resonance is associated with the destructive interaction between the wave that is incident to the matching layer and the wave that is reflected at the matching layer-oil interface. This solution brings a massive increment in the ultrasonic measurement sensitivity. The matching layer technique was first tested by enhancing the sensitivity of the aluminium-oil set-up that was affected by acoustical mismatch. A thin polyimide layer was used as a matching layer between aluminium and the engine oil. This probe was used as ultrasonic viscometer to validate the sensing technique by comparison with a conventional viscometer and by applying a temperature and pressure variation to the samples analysed. The results showed that the ultrasonic viscometer is as precise as a conventional viscometer when Newtonian oils are tested, while for Non-Newtonian oils the measurement is frequency dependent. In particular, it was noticed that at high ultrasonic frequency only the viscosity of the base of the oil was measured. The ultrasonic viscometer was used to validate the mathematical model based on the Maxwell analogy for the correlation of the ultrasonic response with the liquid viscosity. At a second stage, this technique was implemented in a journal bearing. The ultrasonic viscometer was mounted in the shaft to obtain the first viscosity measurement along the circumference of a journal bearing at different rotational speeds and loads. The ultrasonic viscometer identified the different viscosity regions that are present in the journal bearing: the inlet, the regions characterized by the rise in temperature at the contact and the maximum loaded region were the minimum film thickness occurs. The results were compared with the analytical isoviscous solution of the Reynolds equation to confirm that the shape of the angular position-viscosity curves was correct. Finally, the method was preliminarily tested on a coated shell bearing to show that the coating presents in bearing, like iron-oxide or babbit, is a good matching layer for the newly developed ultrasonic viscometer technique. This means that ultrasonic transducers, with sizes as small as a pencil tip, have the potential to be mounted as viscometers in real steel bearings where the coating layer in contact with the fluid acts as a matching layer. Overall, the results obtained showed that this technique provides robust and precise viscosity measurements for in-situ applications in engine bearings.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Engineering (Sheffield) > Mechanical Engineering (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.686504
Depositing User: Mr Michele Schirru
Date Deposited: 26 May 2016 14:36
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 13:12
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12980

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