Pulsed plasma lubricator for the in situ replenishment of lubricants in extreme environments.
NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a small, low-power system for reliably depositing films of lubricants. Lubricants are often used to extend the lifetime of mechanical assemblies in extreme environments such as space. Wet lubricants are sometimes used, but they require active heating to prevent solidification in extreme cold temperatures. Dry lubricants provide superior lubrication and are not susceptible to solidification, but continued operation of the mechanical assembly removes the lubricant over time, and this eventually leads to mechanical failure. JPLs pulsed plasma lubricator (PPL) is a practical means of extending of the life of dry lubricants: in less than five minutes, the PPL can replenish the lubricating material sufficiently to enable hours of operation. PPL technology has the demonstrated potential to extend the lifetime of mechanical assemblies in extreme environments, thus maximizing the usefulness and reliability of expensive equipment.