Robust Solid Lubricant Coating for Gears of Cryogenic Fuel Turbopumps

Period of Performance: 04/24/2006 - 04/24/2009


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Tribologix Inc.
80 Compark Road
Dayton, OH 45459
Principal Investigator


Our advanced surface engineering technologies provide new and broader operating windows for moving mechanical parts in extreme environments. Several of our advanced solid film lubricant coating technologies have been successfully evaluated as viable candidates for RL-10 rocket engine turbopumps. The turbomachinery used for rocketry operate under extreme conditions with a zero fault tolerance. Gears and bearings operate at high speeds and high contact pressures at cryogenic temperatures. Based on our Phase I results a significant improvement in turbopump operation is possible. Improvements in coating uniformity, structure, wear life with a reduction in friction and vibrations yield improved turbopump operations. This study details specific cryogenic testing and laboratory characterization at appropriate loads and speeds similar to that of rocket fuel pump. Cryogenic WAM testing is used to provide the proper tribological test conditions. Coating compatibility with liquid propelent is investigated. Advanced coatings include PVD, Spray, Burnish and Smart Surface Laser Textured solid film lubes and Soft Metallic coatings by PVD and Hybrid PVD. We deliver a reference database of our advanced surface engineering treatments as well as surface treatment of the RL-10 bearing sleeve and turbopump gear based on our results with deliberate concern for economic industrial viability. We provide a compiled matrix of tribological solutions to choose from based on operational level requirements. By working closely with Pratt & Whitney during our Phase I effort and as well as during this research project on technical issues and risk analysis we shall do our first engine test third quarter of 2006 on a bearing sleeve, followed by further engine testing with our new technology on turbopump gears. An incremental approach for insertion of our technology in to full production requires a well executed project flow from Research to Development to PWA Certified Production. We shall also work with Pratt Whitney for process certification.