Federal Grant Aids Nanoparticles in Lubes


A $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will help accelerate development of Baltimore, Maryland-based Pixelligent’s nanocomposite technology for lubricants designed for use in harsh environments. Commercial testing partners include ExxonMobil and Lanxess AG.

Pixelligent’s partners include Argonne National Labs and the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics.

According to the company, PixClear engineered lubricants create self-forming films that adhere to metal surfaces to dramatically improve energy efficiency, reduce wear and extend life for a wide variety of generators, motors, bearings and machinery. The lubricants are targeted for use in harsh environments, including wind-turbine gearboxes, wheel bearings in electric vehicles, marine components, steel and aluminum rolling plants, and space-related applications, among others.

“This grant is a critical step in commercializing our self-assembling PixClear nanoparticles in next generation lubricants,” Serpil Gonen-Williams, chief technical officer of Pixelligent, said in a press release. “We are honored to have partnered with the U.S. departments of Energy and Defense several times over the past eight years on over $4 million of funded programs, as we’ve worked towards a product that will enhance the durability and efficiency of mission-critical equipment. On this grant, we are again working with the renowned Carpick Research Group at the University of Pennsylvania and Argonne National Labs, and we are proud to have ExxonMobil and Lanxess AG as commercial testing partners to accelerate adoption of these lubricants.”

Robert Carpick, who leads the Carpick Research Group at the University of Pennsylvania, said the group partnered with Pixelligent for the past five years on multiple advanced lubricant programs sponsored by the Energy and Defense departments. “Our development work to date has helped demonstrate the potential energy efficiency impacts of embedding their PixClear zirconia nanocrystals in various lubricants,” Carpick said. “The performance is unsurpassed in terms of rapidly forming protective anti-wear films on surfaces.”

Nanotechnology is a field of science that seeks to employ or manipulate materials on an atomic or molecular scale. It generally works with materials that have at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is 0.000000001 meter or one billionth of a meter. Researchers have looked for ways to use nanomaterials in a variety of industries, from semiconductors to surface engineering and medicine.

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