University of Tartu to develop 'space grease' for European Space Agency
The Estonian Materials Technologies Competence Center (MATECC) has just signed an agreement with the European Space Agency to develop a nanotechnology lubricant suitable for extreme conditions.
Shuttles and equipment used in space consist of numerous elements and have several friction-prone details, the surface of which must be greased to ensure smooth operation. Due to extreme temperature, pressure and radiation conditions, conventional oils and greases cannot be used in space. Hence, special materials must be developed to achieve a sufficiently long action time and reliability required for space applications.
Now that Estonia is about to become a full member of the European Space Agency, Estonian enterprises also get the chance to contribute to space-related development. Researchers involved in the activities of the Estonian Materials Technologies Competence Center have been studying friction mechanisms and the characteristics of materials on the nanoscale for several years already and developed novel additives to lubricant oils together with the industry. The acquired knowledge and experience will be also used in the new cooperation project with the European Space Agency, the university's press office reports.
Martin Järvekülg, Research Fellow in Materials Science at the University of Tartu and Project Manager of the Estonian Materials Technologies Competence Centre, said that the aim of the cooperation between the center and the European Space Agency is to develop a lubricant based on the combination of nanoparticles and ionic liquids.
“The novel lubricant must be effective under both normal pressure and under vacuum, both in high and low temperatures,” said Järvekülg. If the researchers succeed in combining the strengths of liquid and solid lubricants in the new compound material, the results of the project can be also used elsewhere, where the extreme environment or the specifics of application place higher demands on the materials.