Solid coatings: Not just for space vehicles anymore

Solid coatings enter the marketplace TLT October 2020
Solids provide lubrication and wear protection for an increasing number of applications. TLT October 2020

Solid lubrication and wear reduction coatings were once the purview of NASA and companies in the aerospace industry. Now, they are showing up in an increasing number of applications here on the ground. The component materials for these coatings come from all over the periodic table. “Even with a relatively small number of materials, once you mix three or four things together, the matrix of what you can do is just immense,” says STLE-member Jeff Lince, principal at Space Tribology Consulting.

Varying the coating’s morphology—amorphous or crystalline, macrocomposites, nanocomposites—creates even more options. Some coatings interact with their surrounding environments and each other to form tribofilms or nanoparticles that can almost eliminate the friction between two surfaces.

The applications for these new coatings, some still in the research phase and some already on the market, are just as varied. Solid coatings protect surfaces on everything from razor blades to Ethernet cable connectors to aircraft turbines, and coatings for advanced electrical power generators and medical devices are just over the horizon.

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