A magnetic bearing is a bearing that supports a load using magnetic levitation. Magnetic bearings support moving parts without physical contact. For instance, they are able to levitate a rotating shaft and permit relative motion with very low friction and no mechanical wear. Magnetic bearings support the highest speeds of all kinds of bearing and have no maximum relative speed.
Passive magnetic bearings use permanent magnets and, therefore, do not require any input power but are difficult to design due to the limitations described by Earnshaw's theorem. Techniques using diamagnetic materials are relatively undeveloped and strongly depend on material characteristics. As a result, most magnetic bearings are active magnetic bearings, using electromagnets which require continuous power input and an active control system to keep the load stable. In a combined design, permanent magnets are often used to carry the static load and the active magnetic bearing is used when the levitated object deviates from its optimum position. Magnetic bearings typically require a back-up bearing in the case of power or control system failure.
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