AMES, Iowa -- Friction is the bane of any machine. When moving parts are subject to friction, it takes more energy to move them, the machine doesn't operate as efficiently, and the parts have a tendency to wear out over time.
But if you could manufacture parts that had tough, "slippery" surfaces, there'd be less friction, requiring less input energy and the parts would last longer. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory are collaborating with other research labs, universities, and industrial partners to develop just such a coating.
"If you consider a pump, like a water pump or a hydraulic pump, it has a turbine that moves the fluid," said Bruce Cook, an Ames Laboratory scientist and co-principal investigator on the four-year, $3 million project. "When the rotor spins, there's friction generated at the contacting surface between the vanes and the housing, or stator. This friction translates into additional torque needed to operate the pump, particularly at start-up. In addition, the friction results in a degradation of the surfaces, which reduces efficiency and the life of the pump. It takes extra energy to get the pump started, and you can't run it at its optimum (higher speed) efficiency because it would wear out more quickly."
Applying a coating to the blades that would reduce friction and increase wear resistance could have a significant effect in boosting the efficiency of pumps, which are used in all kinds of industrial and commercial applications. According to Cook, government calculations show that a modest increase in pump efficiency resulting from use of these nanocoatings could reduce U.S. industrial energy usage by 31 trillion BTUs annually by 2030, or a savings of $179 million a year.
The coating Cook is investigating is a boron-aluminum-magnesium ceramic alloy he discovered with fellow Ames Laboratory researcher and Iowa State University professor of Materials Science and
|Contact: Kerry Gibson|