NASA’s Inventions and Contributions Board handed out its award for the 2018 Government and Commercial Invention of the Year, and the winner is … space lube. Before your mind descends into the gutter, we should note that the material in question is intended for industrial purposes. The fourth-generation material NASA has developed in this area, it’s a solid coating that is able to continue lubricating in temperatures that range from negative-300 degrees to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only is it superior to boring old lubricants like oil and grease, but it’s also better than solid alternatives like graphite or other carbon-based materials.
“PS/PM400 is a solid lubricant material that reduces friction and wear in sliding contacts in a similar fashion to graphite and Teflon, [but at significantly more extreme temperatures,]” Christopher DellaCorte, the NASA’s senior technologist behind the invention, told Digital Trends. “Conventional oils, greases, and solid lubricants begin to break down much above about 600 degrees Fahrenheit. This ‘bump’ in temperature capability opens up the design space for machines and mechanisms to place moving parts right inside the hottest environments, like on the surface of Venus or deep inside aircraft engines, without the expense or problems affiliated with providing active cooling.”
In addition to the possibility of being used in rocket engines and aircraft turbines, NASA’s PS/PM400 has also been licensed to ADMA and Hohman Plating, two companies working in the automotive industry to develop exhaust system parts and gas recirculation valves. Space lube may additionally find a home in a wide range of other industries, such as with drone makers, large equipment manufacturers, and even in heat treatment furnace conveyor systems, where the material could allow even higher temperature operation, at lower cost, than its predecessor. (And before you ask, no, NASA’s space lube is highly unlikely to find its way onto the set of any of those attention-grabbing zero-gravity porno flicks any time soon!)
“I won’t lie; awards and recognition are always welcome career mileposts,” DellaCorte continued. “They signify that one’s organization values and appreciates the work. However, the real benefit of such an award is the more effective dissemination of the technology so it can be more rapidly deployed into more applications saving time, money and making products more efficient.”