SBIR Phase I: Low friction and high durability PTFE nanoparticle composite coating for bearings

Period of Performance: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017

$225K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

SurfTec, LLC
700 W Research Center Blvd Array
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project is a comprehensive investigation into the feasibility of using a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) nanoparticle composite coating as a lubricant in ball bearings for washdown duty electric motors. The successful transition from traditional lubricants to solid lubricants in manufacturing has tremendous implications for the US economy and the environment. Currently, annual lubrication-related maintenance costs are as high as $1 trillion, and consumption of petroleum-based lubricants is estimated to reach 43.78 million metric tons by the end of 2016. The effective implementation of this technology will reduce maintenance costs and downtime by eliminating premature bearing failure. This project will serve as a proof point for the adoption of nano-coating technologies for reducing friction and wear in manufacturing equipment. It will also reduce barriers to entry for these coatings in industries dominated by outdated lubrication practices. The total applicable market size for washdown duty electric motors is estimated to be $50 million, and a substantial near-term revenue opportunity for the proposed technology in this sector will be the focus of this effort. This beachhead opportunity serves as an industry validation point for the proposed technology and an entry point to other industrial and manufacturing applications. The intellectual merit of this project is based on improving the mechanical properties and adhesion of PTFE coatings through the use of an adhesive polymer basecoat and a nanoparticle filler within a PTFE topcoat. This reduces friction and increases wear-life, allowing PTFE coatings to be used in applications from which they have historically been precluded due to high wear and delamination. Preliminary results show that the proposed coating exhibits a two thousand-fold improvement in wear-life over virgin PTFE. The goal of the proposed research and development work is the optimization of the coating chemical composition and deposition parameters to maximize the performance in rolling element applications. These parameters play a critical role in the wear, vibration, and friction that occurs in coated bearings. Benchtop tribological tests will be performed to measure these properties under accelerated wear testing conditions and provide feedback during the optimization process. A thorough understanding of the process-structure-property relationship of the proposed coating will lead to new scientific knowledge which will be disseminated through applicable journals and trade publications. The successful completion of the proposed work will result in PTFE-lubricated ball bearings with a wear-life which is more than 50% improved as compared to grease-lubricated bearings.