Title:
Fluid Compressor with Aerostatic Bearing, Control System of a Compressor with Aerostatic Bearing and Method of Controlling a Compressor with Aerostatic Bearing
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a fluid compressor having an aerostatic bearing, to a control system of a fluid compressor having an aerostatic bearing as well as to a method of controlling a compressor, wherein the aerostatic bearing is fed by a compressed fluid accumulator (5) which is charged during the operation of the compressor (100) and discharged at the respective start to prevent damage to the bearings. These objectives are achieved by means of a fluid compressor (100) comprising a pressurization chamber (C) and at least one fluid pressurization device (1, 2, 18), the pressurization chamber (C) and the pressurization device (1, 2, 18) being located in a housing (4), the pressurization chamber (C) having a non-pressurized inlet (10) and a pressurized outlet (20), the pressurization device (1, 2, 18) compressing the fluid collected by the non-pressurized inlet (10) and discharging it through the pressurized outlet (20), the pressurization device (1 , 2, 18) having at least one aerostatic bearing (3), the aerostatic bearing (3) comprising a floating pressurization region (33), the compressor comprising a compressed fluid accumulator (5) fluidically connectable to the pressurized outlet (20) and the floating pressurization region (33), the compressed fluid accumulator (5) being located inside the housing (4) of the compressor (100). A system for controlling a compressor (100) and the respective control method are further described.



Inventors:
Ietka, Marcos Francisco (Joinville, BR)
Application Number:
12/089967
Publication Date:
09/03/2009
Filing Date:
10/11/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
415/13, 415/20, 417/423.12
International Classes:
F04D29/04; F04D15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FOURSON III, GEORGE R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ALSTON & BIRD LLP (CHARLOTTE, NC, US)
Claims:
1. A fluid compressor comprising a pressurization chamber and at least one fluid pressurization device, the pressurization chamber and the pressurization device being located in a housing, the pressurization chamber having a non-pressurized inlet and a pressurized outlet, the pressurization device compressing the fluid collected by the non-pressurized inlet and discharging it through the pressurized outlet, the pressurization device having at least one aerostatic bearing, the aerostatic bearing comprising a floating pressurization region, and a compressed fluid accumulator fluidically connectable to the pressurized outlet and to the floating pressurization region, the compressed fluid accumulator being located inside the housing of the compressor and being fed with the pressurized outlet fluid.

2. A compressor according to claim 1, characterized in that the housing is formed by closure walls and in that the compressed fluid accumulator is formed as an integral part of the housing and is located internally to the closure walls.

3. A compressor according to claim 1, characterized in that the compressed fluid accumulator is configured to be selectively connectable either to the pressurized outlet or to the floating region of the aerostatic bearing.

4. A compressor according to claim 1, characterized in that the compressed fluid accumulator is connectable to the floating region of the aerostatic bearing through an accumulator tube and a bearing tube, the accumulator tube being connected to the bearing tube through a first control valve, the first control valve being located in the accumulator tube.

5. A compressor according to claim 1, characterized in that the compressed fluid accumulator is connectable to the pressurized outlet through an accumulator tube and a collection piping, the accumulator tube being connected to the collection piping through the first control valve and a second control valve, the second control valve being located in the collection piping.

6. A compressor according to claim 4, characterized in that the first control valve enables the connection of the compressed fluid accumulator to the pressurized outlet when the compressor is operating.

7. A compressor according to claim 4, characterized in that the floating pressurization region of the aerostatic bearing is connected to the pressurized outlet when the compressor is operating.

8. A compressor according to claim 4, characterized in that before the start of the compressor, the compressed fluid accumulator is connected to the floating pressurization region of the aerostatic bearing, the second control valve remaining closed for the passage of the fluid to the pressurized outlet, the compressor being started after the time needed for the aerostatic bearing to float.

9. A compressor according to claim 6, characterized in that the first control valve is an electric valve controllable by a remote system.

10. A compressor according to claim 6, characterized in that the second control valve is a unidirectional valve that enables the passage of the fluid of the pressurized outlet to the compressed fluid accumulator.

11. A compressor according to claim 10, wherein the compressor is a centrifugal compressor and wherein the pressurization device is a rotor, the rotor being associated with a shaft, the shaft having a pair of aerostatic bearings in the floating pressurization region.

12. A compressor according to claim 11, wherein the compressor is a linear compressor and wherein the pressurization device is a piston positioned inside a cylinder, the piston being displaced inside the cylinder and having a pair of aerostatic bearings.

13. A compressor control system comprising a control circuit to control a fluid compressor, the compressor comprising a pressurization chamber and at least one fluid pressurization device, the pressurization chamber and the pressurization device being located in a housing, the pressurization chamber having a non-pressurized inlet and a pressurized outlet, the pressurization device compressing the fluid collected by the non-pressurized inlet and discharging it through the pressurized outlet, the pressurization device having at least one aerostatic bearing, the aerostatic bearing comprising a floating pressurization region, a first control valve and a second control valve that selectively connect either a compressed fluid accumulator integrated into the housing to the pressurized outlet or the compressed fluid accumulator to the floating region of the aerostatic bearing, the system being configured to connect the compressed fluid accumulator to the pressurized outlet and to the floating region of the aerostatic bearing when the compressor is operating, or to connect only the compressed fluid accumulator to the floating region of the aerostatic bearing before the start of the compressor.

14. A system according to claim 13, characterized in that the first control valve is an electric valve associated with a control circuit, the system being configured in such a way that during the start of the compressor, the control circuit opens the electric valve for transferring the compressed fluid stored inside the compressed fluid accumulator to the floating pressurization region of the aerostatic bearing, the compressor being started after the time needed for the aerostatic bearing to float.

15. A system according to claim 14, characterized in that, during the start of the compressor, the second control valve remains closed for the passage of the fluid to the pressurized outlet, until the pressure of the fluid of the pressurized outlet is higher than the pressure of the fluid discharged from the compressed fluid accumulator.

16. A method for starting a compressor as defined in claim 1, comprising the steps of: in a start mode, opening a passage from the compressed fluid accumulator during the time needed for the aerostatic bearing of the compressor to float; keeping the second control valve closed until the pressure of the pressurized outlet is higher than the pressure of the fluid discharged from the compressed fluid accumulator; and recharging the compressed fluid accumulator from the fluid at the pressurized outlet.

Description:

The present invention relates to a fluid compressor having an aerostatic bearing, to a control system of a fluid compressor having an aerostatic bearing as well as to a method of controlling a compressor, this fluid compressor may include, for instance, centrifugal compressors or linear compressors applicable to cooling systems and to the construction and the respective control system of the pressurization in the bearings of said devices.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART

Centrifugal compressors have long been used in the industry, for instance, in the automotive industry. Its concept is quite simple in relation to the other compressors, e.g., reciprocating, rotary etc. However, their bearing system is highly complex due to high speed operation during the normal functioning mode, which is estimated at a rotation of about 30,000 to 200,000 rpm. Notedly, the use of centrifugal compressors in cooling cycles has been rare, due to the technological difficulties for the bearing system.

Still with regard to the centrifugal compressors, these normally have single or double stage configurations, but they may include multiple stages according to the use of the equipment, the amount of stages being defined by the number of rotors mounted on an shaft with actuation by an electrical motor.

According to the prior art, one of the ways to solve the bearing system problem for shaft floating is the use of electromagnetic bearings that keep the shafts floating in view of obtain a construction which has no friction in the bearings. This solves the problem of friction, but requires a specific electric circuit, and the bearing needs to be provided with energizable coils to form the electromagnetic field.

Other solutions describe the use of aerostatic bearings that are pressurized to float during the operation of the compressor and thus reduce friction and prolong the useful life of the equipment. In these solutions, it is necessary to use, for instance, a pump so that the bearing is pressurized at the moment in which the compressor is turned on (or is at starting mode) to avoid premature wear of the equipment.

One of the solutions found in the art that tries to solve these problems is described in document EP 0 212 091, which refers to a pressurized bearing that is used in turbochargers of internal-combustion engines. According to the teachings of this document, a storage reservoir connected between the hot and the cold part of the turbocharger is provided, and this reservoir stores the air pressurized by the turbocharger in order to pressurize the bearing and, thus, avoid its wear during the start and operation of the engine.

One of the deficiencies of this solution is that it requires the assembly of a reservoir and piping, which generates manufacturing and maintenance costs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES OF THE INVENTION

In order to overcome the problems of the prior art, the objects of the present invention are a compressor, a system and the respective method of control with a bearing system through a previously pressurized reservoir, controllable by a pair of control valves aiming at:

    • Achieving a simplified bearing system;
    • Eliminating the whole electric-electronic control system of the electromagnetic bearings of the current models;
    • Lowering the cost of the product;
    • Making it a more competitive product;
    • Making it a simpler product for large-scale manufacture, and
    • Reducing the volume of the compressor.

These objectives are achieved by means of a fluid compressor comprising a pressurization chamber and at least one fluid pressurization device, the pressurization chamber and the pressurization device being inside a housing, the pressurization chamber having a non-pressurized inlet and a pressurized outlet, the pressurization device compressing the fluid collected by the non-pressurized inlet and discharging it through the pressurized outlet, the pressurization device having at least one aerostatic bearing, the aerostatic bearing comprising a floating pressurization region, the compressor comprising a compressed fluid accumulator fluidically connectable to the pressurized outlet and to the floating pressurization region, the compressed fluid accumulator being located inside the compressor housing.

The objectives of the present invention are further attained by a compressor control system that comprises a control circuit to control a fluid compressor, the compressor comprising a pressurization chamber and at least one fluid pressurization device, the pressurization chamber and the pressurization device being located in a housing, the pressurization chamber having a non-pressurized inlet and a pressurized outlet, the pressurization device compressing the fluid collected by the non-pressurized inlet and discharging it through the pressurized outlet, the pressurization device having at least one aerostatic bearing, the aerostatic bearing comprising a floating pressurization region, the system further comprising a first control valve and a second control valve that selectively connect either a compressed fluid accumulator integrated into the housing with pressurized outlet or the compressed fluid accumulator to the floating region of the aerostatic bearing, the system being configured to connect the compressed fluid accumulator to the pressurized outlet and the floating region of the aerostatic bearing when the compressor is operating, or only the compressed fluid accumulator and the floating region of the aerostatic bearing before the start of the compressor.

Still according to the teachings of the present invention, the objectives are further achieved by a method of starting a compressor that comprises the steps of: in the start mode, opening a passage from the compressed fluid accumulator during the time needed for an aerostatic bearing of the compressor to float; keeping the second control valve closed until the pressure of the pressurized outlet is higher than the pressure of the fluid discharged from the compressed fluid accumulator; recharging the compressed fluid accumulator from the fluid at the pressurized outlet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The present invention will be described in more details on the basis of embodiments examples represented in the drawings. The drawings show:

FIG. 1—is a schematic cut view of a multiple-stage centrifugal compressor, illustrating one of the embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 2—is a schematic cut view of a multiple-stage centrifugal compressor, illustrating one of the embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 3—is a cut view of a linear compressor, according to another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

As can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, one of the possible embodiments of the teachings of the present invention is to apply them to a centrifugal compressor, for instance, of the two-stage type. This type of compressor has two stages, whose compression rotor 1, of the first stage, has the function of drawing a fluid (gas) through a non-pressurized inlet 10; in order to be pressurized then by a second-stage compression rotor 2 for the cooling circuit (not shown) from the pressurized outlet 20. The two compression rotors 1, 2 are associated, that is to say, they are mechanically fixed at the ends of a same shaft 6, which is, in turn, activated by an electric motor 7. Shaft 6 also has a pair of aerostatic bearings 3 in a floating pressurization region 33 which, when submitted to a positive pressure, start to float.

In addition, compressor 100 further consists of a housing 4, which comprises an external wall or closure walls 44 that make the compressor 100 hermetically closed.

Another embodiment of the present invention is applicable to linear compressors and, in this case, the difference is related to the bearing system of the piston 18 itself, instead of a shaft 6 that is present in centrifugal compressors. As can be observed in more details in FIG. 3, in a linear compressor, the pressurization device is a piston 18 positioned inside a cylinder 19, the piston 18 being displaceable inside the cylinder 19 by an electric motor 7 of the linear type, the piston 18 further resting on a pair of aerostatic bearings 3.

Generically, the same constructive concepts may be applied to centrifugal and linear compressors, since both have conceptually the same means of operation. In both cases, at least one pressurization chamber C is foreseen where the fluid will be compressed by at least one fluid pressurization device 1, 2, 18, that is to say, by one or more rotors 1, 2 or a piston 18, which, independently of the solution, will be located in a housing 4, the pressurization chamber C having a non-pressurized inlet 10 and a pressurized outlet 20, the fluid (gas) being collected by the non-pressurized inlet 10, compressed in the pressurization chamber C and discharged through the pressurized outlet 20.

For both the bearings in the centrifugal compressor and in the linear compressor to float, at least one aerostatic bearing 3 is provided, this aerostatic bearing 3 comprising a floating pressurization region 33 to where the fluid must be pumped for the bearing to float during the operation of the compressor 100.

According to the teachings of the present invention in order to overcome the constructive and operating problems in the art, a reservoir (or a compressed fluid accumulator 5) must be provided, which may be fluidically connected to the pressurized outlet 20 and to the floating pressurization region 33, so as to (i) make the aerostatic bearings 3 float during the operation of the compressor 100 and, at the same time, ii) feed the compressed fluid accumulator 5 with the pressure available at the pressured outlet 20.

In addition, so as to overcome the space, construction, maintenance and manufacturing problems of the prior art, the compressed fluid accumulator 5 must be located inside the housing 4 within the respective closure walls 44, so that it is formed as an integral part of the housing 4, which imparts not only less charge loss, but also a more immediate response in the recharge of the compressed fluid accumulator 5 and, therefore, more efficiency, and in the pressurization of the bearings 3.

With regard to the fluid connections between the compressed fluid accumulator 5, the pressurized outlet 20 and the floating pressurization region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3, it is possible to observe from FIGS. 1 and 2 that the compressed fluid accumulator 5 is selectively connectable either to the pressurized outlet 20 or to the floating region 33 of aerostatic bearing 3. In this sense, it is possible to observe that the compressed fluid accumulator 5 is connectable to the floating region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3 through an accumulator tube 32 and a bearing tube 31, the accumulator tube 32 being connected to the bearing tube 31 through a first control valve 8, the first control valve 8 being located in the accumulator tube 32. The connection of the compressed fluid accumulator 5 with the pressurized outlet 20 is made by the accumulator tube 32 and a collection tube 30, the accumulator tube 32 being connected to the collection tube 30 through the first control valve 8 and a second control valve 9, this second control valve 9 being located in the collection tube 30.

Operationally, the first control valve 8 enables the connection of the compressed fluid accumulator to the pressurized outlet 20 when the compressor 100 is operating, and the floating pressurization region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3 is also connected to the pressurized outlet when the compressor 100 is operating, for the compressed fluid accumulator 5 to have the same pressure of the pressurized outlet 20 and, thus, remain charged.

With this configuration, before the start of the compressor 100, the compressed fluid accumulator 5 is connected to the floating pressurization region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3, the second control valve 9 remaining closed to the passage of the fluid to the pressurized outlet 20, the compressor 100 only being started after the time needed for the aerostatic bearing 3 to float, which usually takes approximately one second.

With regard to the type of valve, preferably as a first control valve 8 an electric valve (or solenoid valve) is used that can be controlled by an external system, according to the teachings of the present invention, so as to release the fluid stored in the compressed fluid accumulator 5 at the start of the compressor 100, as well as to control the respective recharge during the operating phase of the compressor 100.

With regard to the second control valve 9, this is preferably the unidirectional mechanical valve that enables the passage of the fluid of the pressurized outlet 20 to the compressed fluid accumulator 5. This unidirectional valve aims at preventing the fluid that is stored in the compressed fluid accumulator 5 from exiting through the pressurized outlet 20 when the compressor 100 is at the starting phase and, at the same time, must be configured to be open to the passage of the pressurized fluid at the pressurized outlet 20 for recharging the compressor 100 when the latter is in operation. The second control valve 9 can also be replaced by an electric valve (or solenoid valve) that must be opened in the suitable moments to achieve the objectives of the present invention.

In order to control the compressor 100 of the present invention, an associated system is provided. The system must comprise an electronic control circuit 88 to control the starting phase of the compressor 100 as well as the charging phase of the compressed fluid accumulator 5. Therefore, as already mentioned, the control circuit 88 of the system of the present invention must selectively connect, by means of the first control valve 8 and the second control valve 9, either the compressed fluid accumulator 5 to pressurized outlet 20 or the compressed fluid accumulator 5 to the floating region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3 and, specifically, it must be configured to connect the compressed fluid accumulator 5 to the pressurized outlet 20 and the floating region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3 when compressor 100 is operation, or only the compressed fluid accumulator 5 and the floating region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3 before the start of the compressor 100.

The system must further provide that, at the start of the compressor 100, the control circuit 88 opens the electric valve so that the compressed fluid stored inside the compressed fluid accumulator 5 is, at least partially, transferred to the floating pressurization region 33 of the aerostatic bearing 3 and the compressor 100 is started only after the time needed for the aerostatic bearing 3 to float, that is, typically within approximately one second after the opening of the compressed fluid accumulator 5. At this moment, the second control valve 9 will remain closed for the passage of the fluid to the pressurized outlet 20, until the pressure of the fluid of the pressurized outlet 20 is higher than the pressure of the fluid discharged from the compressed fluid accumulator 5.

By applying the operation of the system to the compressor 100, the following steps can be foreseen for the start of the compressor:

    • in the start mode, opening a passage from the compressed fluid accumulator 5 during the time needed for the aerostatic bearings 3 of the compressor 100 to float; and
    • keeping the second control valve 9 closed until the pressure of the pressurized outlet 20 is higher than the pressure of the fluid discharged from the compressed fluid accumulator 5; and
    • recharging the compressed fluid accumulator 5 from the fluid at the pressurized outlet 20.

Preferably, the volume of the compressed fluid accumulator is configured to have about 10% of the total volume of the refrigerant fluid that circulates inside the cooling circuit, other volume percentages also being possible, depending on the conditions and characteristics of the compressor 100. In comparison with the systems according to the prior art, the advantages are significant, since not only a reduced size is achieved for the installation of the compressor 100 of the cooling system but also a reduced mounting time of the compressor 100 at a refrigerator cabinet is attained, for instance, because the compressed fluid accumulator 5 is already integrated into the housing 4, and, in addition, cost sayings are achieved because the volume of the cooling fluid is smaller when compared to a system with a reservoir separated from the housing 4, which results in lower manufacturing and maintenance costs of the compressor 100.

After having described examples of the preferred embodiment, it must be understood that the scope of the present invention encompasses other possible variations, being limited only by the content of the appended claims, including therein the possible equivalents.