A load responsive hydrodynamic bearing is provided in the form of a thrust bearing or journal bearing for supporting, guiding and lubricating a relatively rotatable member to minimize wear thereof responsive to relative rotation under severe load. In the space between spaced relatively rotatable members and in the presence of a liquid or grease lubricant, one or more continuous ring shaped integral generally circular bearing bodies each define at least one dynamic surface and a plurality of support regions. Each of the support regions defines a static surface which is oriented in generally opposed relation with the dynamic surface for contact with one of the relatively rotatable members. A plurality of flexing regions are defined by the generally circular body of the bearing and are integral with and located between adjacent support regions. Each of the flexing regions has a first beam-like element being connected by an integral flexible hinge with one of the support regions and a second beam-like element having an integral flexible hinge connection with an adjacent support region. A least one local weakening geometry of the flexing region is located intermediate the first and second beam-like elements. In response to application of load from one of the relatively rotatable elements to the bearing, the beam-like elements and the local weakening geometry become flexed, causing the dynamic surface to deform and establish a hydrodynamic geometry for wedging lubricant into the dynamic interface.
This invention was made with United States Government support under Contract No. DE-FG03 96 ER 82199 awarded by the Department of Energy. The United States Government therefore has certain rights in this invention.