Polycrystalline diamond (PCD) bearings are designed for use in extreme environments; this includes process-fluid-lubricated applications such as those in oil and gas drilling turbines and marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy machines. Past uses of PCD bearings in oil and gas down-hole tool applications have proven them to be robust, long lived, and rugged [1]. To be effective in MHK machines, PCD bearings must demonstrate adequate bearing efficiency and life in a submerged marine environment not nearly as severe as an oil well bore or a gas well bore. This paper discusses the advantages PCD bearings could provide when used in underwater MHK energy machines. Laboratory test results are presented that can help predict the performance of PCD in these MHK applications. Results from three types of tests are presented including tests that measure bearing capacity, those that observe and qualify hydrodynamic properties during testing, and those that evaluate diamond wear rates through a test representing the life time of a bearing in a MHK energy application. Failure tests conducted to measure bearing capacity revealed the PCD bearing could well endure conditions found in MHK machines, and coefficient of friction (COF) tests demonstrated the PCD ability to move from a boundary lubrication regime, to mixed mode lubrication, and then become hydrodynamic. The PCD wear test was designed to simulate years in the life of a tidal stream power generator, an MHK energy machine, and showed the PCD life is more than adequate for the MHK application. Bearing capacity, COF, and wear observed during laboratory testing illustrate that PCD thrust bearings can provide a robust, long lasting, and low maintenance bearing in MHK applications.

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