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Friday, November 5, 2021 

Rolls-Royce Power Systems has developed a sliding bearing for its mtu engines that is believed to reduce their fuel consumption by 1%, through a finely-grooved bearing surface, instead of being entirely smooth, which when working together with the lubricant, produces an aquaplaning-like effect which functions as an anti-friction layer.

The achievement has been recognised by the award of the Environmental Technology Prize by the Ministry for the Environment in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Thekla Walker, Environment Minister, Baden-Württemberg, said: “This is an innovation with huge potential, because the new bearings can simply replace the existing bearings in a whole range of applications.”

The new bearings significantly reduce the amount of friction arising between bearing and crankshaft and also enable prediction of when maintenance will next be required.  The anti-friction layer typically reduces friction-induced losses arising between crankshaft and bearing by 20-35%, depending on the operating mode. The bearing is the result of a collaborative effort between a small project team in Friedrichshafen, bearing manufacturer Miba, and the MontanUniversität Leoben in Austria.

Dr Otto Preiss, COO and CTO, Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said: “The technology behind sliding bearings is very mature and very well established and to genuinely improve it you need outstanding engineering expertise and innovative talent. So we're very proud that along with our partners, we've succeeded in developing an optimised metal slide bearing that can be installed in our engines without the need for further modification. With just one easy production step extra, a 1% reduction in fuel consumption can be achieved that not only lowers costs, but avoids emissions.”

New mtu engines produced in higher volumes by the company will be delivered ed with the new sliding bearing in the near future, while mtu engines already in service can be retro-fitted in the course of overhauls. The future plan is for the new bearing to be marketed as an individual component by Miba.

Use of the bearing in the engine reduces friction-induced losses, and while power output is maintained, fuel consumption drops by around 1%, representing in a typical application a fuel saving of around 80 litre/day.

Furthermore, the innovative bearing technology indicates when the next major maintenance work will be due by producing a change in the sound signature of the bearing which can be interpreted accordingly. That enables the service life of the bearing to be fully exploited. Premature maintenance is avoided and excessive wear identified in good time, saving both material and operating costs.

The bearing, for which a patent is pending, is not only suitable for use in mtu engines from Rolls-Royce, according to project leader Dr Thomas Kottke.

“It is suitable for all equipment in which sliding bearings must withstand high loads – for example utility vehicle engines, turbines and wind power plants, which, thanks to the new bearing, go into operation a little more quickly than before and are therefore productive for longer,” said Kottke.

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