This article explores use of foil air bearings in land-based turbomachinery. A machine with foil air bearings is more reliable than one with rolling element bearings because it requires fewer parts to support the rotative assembly and needs no lubrication. Foil air bearings can handle severe environmental conditions such as the ingestion of sand and dust. A reversed pilot design at the cooling flow inlet prevents large particles from entering the bearing's flow path, and smaller particles are continually flushed out of the bearing by the cooling flow. Many applications of foil air/gas bearings other than air cycle machines have been built and successfully tested, but nothing appears to be currently in production. Foil bearings have strong potential in several applications. Among these are small general aviation gas turbine engines; oil-free cryogenic turboexpanders for gas separation plants; auxiliary power units for various aerospace and ground vehicles; and, taking advantage of automated manufacturing methods, automotive gas turbine engines, vapor-cycle centrifugal compressors, and commercial air/gas compressors.

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