The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project lies in addressing the economic losses resulting from poor lubrication practices in conveyor systems, associated maintenance, and equipment downtime, which are estimated to be 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a total of more than $1 trillion per year across all U.S. industries. The successful completion of the project could significantly reduce the energy consumption and equipment failure in conveyor systems and provide a fundamental understanding of the proposed coating technology, which could be applied to other systems or components, such as shaft seals, bearings, gears, and chains, producing significant savings across U.S. industries. The technology could expand the global low-friction coating market and replace the use of non-durable powder or spray lubricants as well as petroleum-based oil lubricants, which are harmful to the environment. The project will provide extensive education and leadership training in innovation and entrepreneurship to the I-Corps team, equipping the team with the required knowledge and skills to lead high-tech startup companies and develop knowledge-based industries in Arkansas.
This I-Corps project focuses on the commercialization feasibility of low friction, durable graphite solid lubricant coatings for conveyor systems. The use of graphite as a solid lubricant coating has been limited due to its poor adhesion to substrates and high wear rate. The proposed novel graphite coating can potentially address these challenges. The key differentiation of the proposed coating technology is a unique bonding approach to adhere the graphite coatings to a substrate with high strength, which has been challenging to achieve previously. The expected technical outcome of this project is the production of dry-lubricated conveyor materials that show friction reductions of at least 50% with improved durability.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.