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University of Texas at Arlington awarded patent for universal grease for aircraft

Afton Chemical Corporation’s Phase II expansion of its Jurong Island chemical additive manufacturing facility is complete and ready to commence commercial production. The new development was officially opened on 19 September 2018. The opening is the culmination of a SGD380 million (USD275 million) investment by the U.S.-based company in Singapore. The Phase II outlay of SGD222 million (USD160 million) exceeds Afton Chemical’s initial investment of SGD158 million (USD114 million) for the original project, completed in May 2016.
Photo courtesy of The University of Texas. Pranesh Aswath

The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) has been awarded a patent for a lubricant composition that can be used as a universal grease for aircraft, UTA announced in its website.

“Universal greases used on aircraft have to function under extreme pressure conditions and variable temperatures, as well as work on all the moving parts of an aircraft, from wings to a door handle,” said Pranesh Aswath, lead inventor for this research and a professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering.

“We have developed a new class of lubricants with enhanced wear and friction performance by using milled metal sulfite particles as an additive to grease, which shows better performance over a range of loads,” he said.

Metal sulfite, or Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), is widely used as an additive in solid lubricants because of its low friction properties and robustness. However, at low loads or resistance, it shows excessive wear and higher friction.

To address this issue, UTA researchers used pre-milled mixtures of MoS2-based grease and sulfurized additives, which significantly improved wear properties over a range of mechanical resistance. Milled metal sulfite particles have rounded or reduced surface energy compared to non-milled particles.

“A single universal grease that is able to function in multiple conditions is key for the aerospace industry, as using two or three greases has proven to be incompatible and even caused crashes in the 1980s,” Aswath said. “We believe our patented lubricant compositions could fill an important gap in the market and provide a safer, more effective performance.”

The research for this patent was done at UTA’s Tribology, Lubrication and Coating Laboratory. Established in 1999, the lab is now recognized as one of the world’s top labs in this field, with nearly 60 journal articles and more than 10 patents.

“Dr. Aswath and his collaborators have established a strong focus area of research in lubricant additives and their lab is widely recognized as a leading center for these activities,” said UTA College of Engineering Dean Peter Crouch. “The new patented technology can be viewed as an additional route to enhanced aircraft safety through a universal grease that is effective under multiple conditions.”