Carpick Research Group Contributes to Pixelligent Success Story

Penn Engineering faculty bring the spirit of entrepreneurship to life through their collaborations in a wide range of startups, products and external partnerships each year. The research group led by Rob Carpick, John Henry Towne Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics and in Material Science and Engineering, has long-supported the growth and technical capabilities of a Department of Energy (DOE) “success story” company called Pixelligent Technologies LLC.

The Carpick Group’s work focuses on the fundamental origins and important applications of friction, adhesion, wear and lubrication at the nanoscale. Pixelligent, founded in 2000, aims to leverage this research to produce nanoscale lubricants to improve efficiency and help reduce emissions levels associated with many industries, especially the automotive industry.

Supported by a $1.9 million DOE grant, Pixelligent, the Carpick Group, collaborators from Argonne National Laboratory and numerous industrial partners have been developing a new way to deposit high-performance protective coatings on machine components, including gears and bearings, which operate in harsh environments. 

“These tiny, 5-nanometer diameter particles form hard coatings strongly bound to surfaces by running those surfaces in a carrier fluid containing the nanoparticles,” says Carpick. “We believe this will greatly improve the operation, efficiency and lifetime of large machines. This includes vehicles, wind turbines or any machine involving steel and other structural materials coming into contact under high loads, at high speeds and with other challenging aspects such as electric fields being present. Understanding the physical mechanisms by which this all works, and then seeing it deployed to save energy and facilitate commercial adoption of green technologies, are both very exciting.” 

Pixelligent’s breakthrough lubricant additive technology, which creates highly durable coatings on metal surfaces, subsequently was picked up by the Department of Defense and awarded several follow-on contracts. Pixelligent is currently working with large commercial testing partners, including ExxonMobil, Infineum and Winergy, to test and bring its innovative coating technology product to the automotive and renewable energy markets. 

Read the full story by the DOE here.