# How does an air-bearing "pre-load" work?

I've been reading into air bearing recently and keep coming across the term "pre-load". References online and wikipedia both state that a pre-load helps stiffen the bearing such that their is less variation.

I'm guessing the pre-load ensures the air-gap is maintained/little variation.

However, I'm having a difficult understanding how adding some force (pre-load) would actually help with this.

Here is an ideal system wherein a shaft is rotating clockwise inside a journal bearing. As you can see the eccentricity is zero. Notice the gap between the shaft and the journal is filled with oil, or air in case of air bearings. Suppose the whole system rotates unloaded in the beginning. Now duo to some irregularities (bumps, impacts ...) the eccentricity between the shaft and the geometrical center of the journal bearing increases. Here you can see indeed the shaft moves upward to the right, the direction of the eccentricity is $$\theta = 38.78°$$: Now the pressure distribution tends to rotate the shaft in counterclockwise direction, the pressure in narrow split is the highest. The resultant of pressure in narrow split is $$F$$. If the bearing is not preloaded then this force $$F$$ makes the system unstable by disrupting the natural rotational motion of the shaft. By preloading the bearing in all directions of course (because this force $$F$$ happens to have random directions because the irregularities happen randomly) compensate the force $$F$$ and the system stays stable.