TriboTEX Awarded AFWERX SBIR Innovation Grant to Explore Nanomaterial Coating Platforms to Extend Operational Lifetimes of Helicopter Gearboxes
Pullman, WA (PRUnderground) January 8th, 2019
Washington-based TriboTEX has been awarded one of the U.S. Air Force’s Small Business Innovation Research grants of $50,000. Under the special topic, awardees were challenged to provide innovative, defense-related, dual-purpose technologies or solutions to meet a clear Air Force need.
The new award allows TriboTEX to expand solutions the company derived through earlier SBIR grants by applying the company’s nanotech solutions to protect military helicopter gearboxes. The SBIR award resulted from a partnership between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the AFWERX program to streamline the SBIR process to “speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants and decrease bureaucratic overhead. Beginning in SBIR 18.3, the Air Force has begun offering ‘Special’ SBIR topics that are faster, leaner and open to a broader range of solutions.”
According to TriboTEX founder Dr. Pavlo Rudenko, Ph.D., winning the highly coveted and competitive SBIR grant provides exciting new opportunities for the company. “We are excited to collaborate with stakeholders across the Air Force by providing lubrication solutions to persistent pain points and life-limiting components. Particularly promising are applications in helicopter and airplane gearboxes and a number of hydraulic components and auxiliary mechanisms,” Dr. Rudenko explained.
At TechConnect 2017, TriboTEX was honored with the National Innovation Award and the Defense Innovation Award for its nanomaterial coatings. The smart nanocoating technology consists of flat nanoparticles with sticky and slippery sides. Nanoparticles are injected into lubricants to reverse machine wear at the source by replacing worn away material with a strong nanocoating. Dr. Rudenko explained that “by injecting TriboTEX nanoparticles into the engine oil of your car, truck, SUV, or other machine, you actively initiate a wear reversal process building a coating particle by particle.”
According to Dr. Rudenko, the nontoxic coating is smart and only forms on metal-bearing surfaces. “When exposed to heat and friction,” he explained, “the smart nanoparticles in the additive fuse to a surface making a sticky side that adheres to the metal in your engine and exposes a smooth side that allows for lower friction and seamless lubrication throughout the unit.”
TriboTEX is the result of Dr. Rudenko’s graduate work in materials science engineering at Washington State University. There, he discovered unique anisotropic nanoparticles with two different faces. In oil lubricants, they can adhere to metal surfaces when exposed to heightened temperatures at the same time providing lubricity. From this discovery, Dr. Rudenko worked on scaling up production of this special material to meaningful quantities. TriboTEX was the culmination of that discovery.
The company has been heavily involved in the SBIR process throughout its development. In 2013, TriboTEX received a National Science Foundation Phase I SBIR grant to explore the feasibility of developing protective coatings using a nanomaterial platform. After receiving a Phase II award, TriboTEX solidified their success by scaling up a unique manufacturing process.
During the technology development, Dr. Rudenko has partnered with various institutions for funding. In addition to the NSF grants, Dr. Rudenko received funding from the Department of Energy, Hydropower Research Foundation, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Rudenko says he is optimistic about the future: “This latest award opens an important door for practical aerospace applications for us. We are excited to explore the capabilities of our technology to alleviate application-specific problems within the Air Force.”
In 2017, TriboTEX launched its coating technologies for the consumer vehicle market through a Kickstarter campaign that promised “More HP, better MPG, and less wear in car engines.” Since that campaign, TriboTEX products have been deployed in over 30,000 vehicles worldwide and customers are more than pleased with the results they achieve. Customer Mike Apuzzo says he has been amazed by the product: “I’ve been a technician for German cars for a long time and have never seen something that actually worked as well as this does.” (Read more reviews at shop.tribotex.com/pages/tribotex-reviews and Amazon)
Founded in Pullman, Washington by Pavlo Rudenko, Ph.D., TriboTEX produces a clean lubrication alternative for engines and other machines. The company designed proprietary nanosheets with specific functional properties that enable individual consumers, the military, and industry (including automotive and power generation) to improve mechanical output. When added to currently available lubricating blends, TriboTEX’s award-winning, self-assembling coating simultaneously reverses wear and enhances lubricity. A key component of the TriboTEX mission is to work with industry partners to reduce friction and conserve energy and waste around the world. More information about TriboTEX is available at www.tribotex.com.