TriboTEX, a clean-tech startup comprised of four WSU graduate students, recently gained a national platform for their business venture DuoLife(™), technology that will benefit anyone using machinery with moving parts.
The team was the first from WSU to ever compete in the prestigious Rice University Business Plan Competition in Houston. They competed against 42 other teams from around the nation for a chance to win more than $1 million in cash and prizes, such as equity investments.
Team members Pavlo Rudenko (material science and engineering) Thomas Gualtieri (engineering), Matt Hanley (business administration) and Qassem Naim (business administration) earned a respectable second place win in their heat, in the runner-up round.
“I’ve never seen a crowd so engaged as when our team was presenting,” said coach Andy Perkins, WSU marketing associate professor. “The questions were extremely technical, but the team answered with energy and ease. The experience will help TriboTEX and future teams to prepare and be invited to compete again next year.”
TriboTEX is the brainchild of Rudenko, who recently graduated from a doctoral program. He has been working in tribology, the study of friction, lubrication and wear, for years. He started the company in 2012 to commercialize clean super-lubricants. He and the other teammates developed DuoLife that reverses wear by building up a nano-coating by use of the machine which extends engine life and increases efficiency.
“Any moving part can benefit from our technology,” Rudenko said. “Duolife doesn’t wear out or expire once applied.”
DuoLife is specifically manufactured for large machines with steel gears and bearings, such as windmill gear boxes. The gear boxes notoriously wear out quickly, and to replace or repair them is extremely expensive and difficult. The lubricant delays the need for repair or replacement and is expected to be widely adopted by the wind energy industry.
The marketability of their product lies in nanoparticles, or small particles that are sticky on one side and smooth on the other. Instead of gears or other moving parts rubbing together and causing damaging friction, the coating will slide against itself, adding years to a machine’s lifespan.
“When you have multiple particles in a solution, the ones that slide will increase lubrication and the ones that stick will slowly reverse wear by creating a coating,” Naim said.
The team plans to sell Duolife to directly to larger industries and their consumers. In addition to the wind energy industry, they are looking into multiple markets, including the used car industry. Their goal is to collaborate with business-to-business supply stores and mechanics who can then sell Duolife to their clients.