Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have received a $1 million grant, as part of a $2.5 million joint research project with the University of Florida, to develop a new generation of synthetic lubricant coatings for future aircraft and spacecraft. The five-year award is from the U.S. Department of Defense's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative. "Vehicles that voyage from Earth's warm and humid environment into the extreme cold vacuum of space require lubricants that can perform under a great range of conditions without fail," said Linda Schadler, Ph.D., professor of materials engineering and leader of the Rensselaer research tem. "We are working to create a wide variety of new multifunctional coatings that provide low friction and high resistance to wear in multiple environments." To do that, the researchers are working to develop "chameleon" coatings that react to changes in the environment that a spacecraft experiences. Such lubricant coatings will be made from combinations of thin layers of carbon nanotubes, polymers and ceramics that can reduce the rate of wear by 1000 times or more.