Lubrication in a vacuum: from deposition chambers to space

Lubricating bearings and gears that must operate in the vacuum of space or inside a vacuum system like those used for physical vapor deposition is a difficult proposition.  Most oils and greases used in air will evaporate in a vacuum, causing mechanism failure and contamination of important materials and components. In space, there are additional difficulties, including vibration during launch, thermal cycling on orbit, and the need to work effectively for missions up to twenty years in duration without lubricant replenishment.  Two classes of materials that can handle these problems are used in space and vacuum systems:

Liquid Lubricants – synthetically designed for low evaporation, wide temperature ranges, and long life

Solid Lubricants (e.g., Molybdenum disulfide and PTFE) – formulated using various species and techniques to form composites and coatings; For applications in boundary conditions, and those requiring even lower evaporation and greater temperature ranges than for liquid lubricants

This webinar will present examples of typical lubricated space mechanisms, as well as recent tribological and surface chemical studies illustrating the performance and challenges of solid lubricants. Lessons learned in spacecraft lubrication will be discussed to inform lubricating techniques for vacuum systems, which, although are more accessible and less expensive than spacecraft, have their own unique challenges. 

Dr. Jeff Lince (English)
Jeff Lince

Dr. Jeff Lince is the owner of Space Tribology Consulting, where he provides guidance in the areas of Tribology, PVD Coatings, and Surface Chemistry, particularly as they relate to space and vacuum applications. He is a world-recognized expert in solid lubrication and sliding electrical contacts (e.g., slip rings) for space applications, as well as in the field of thin film growth techniques, including sputter-deposition and other PVD methods. Previously, he held the position of Senior Scientist at The Aerospace Corporation for over thirty years, where he applied his expertise in these areas to many government and commercial space programs.

Dr. Lince received his B.S. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley, and his PhD in Physical Chemistry from UCLA, where he studied the chemistry of surfaces and thin films. He has over fifty professional publications and has presented his results at numerous conferences, including several invited talks. Dr. Lince is a member of the AVS, STLE, and ACS. He has been Chair of the Southern California Chapter of the AVS and is currently the Treasurer. He was also an Executive Committee member with the Advanced Surface Engineering Division of the AVS.  


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