Washington State Magazine

Washington State Magazine :: Spring 2014

Spring 2014

Points of views

In This Issue...


Mountains and Rivers and Prairies Without End—Recollecting Washington’s landscapes :: “The whole concept has burgeoned ... to one where the landscape is part of why people select to live in certain locations, has political meaning, has religious meaning, has all of these other kinds of meaning.” by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Trips: Washington road trips from Tim Steury and Kathleen Flenniken}

A True Story Fraught with Peril :: Buried in hundreds of layers of rock are tales of fire, brimstone, destruction, and fragility. by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Trips: Flood Basalts and Glacier Floods: Roadside Geology of Parts of Walla Walla, Franklin, and Columbia Counties, Washington }

A Dose of Reason—Pediatric specialists advocate for vaccines :: In 2011, Washington’s vaccination rate was dangerously low. According to the CDC, 6.2 percent of children in kindergarten had not been fully immunized. by Hannelore Sudermann

An inquiring mind :: Ken Alexander ’82, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital.


On the Road :: Washington’s Poet Laureate brings poetry to, and discovers it in, each of the state’s 39 counties. by Kathleen Flenniken ’83


:: Backyard boarders

:: Google ranking molecules

:: Music to a closed country

:: The calculus of caring and cooperation

:: Sorting debitage from rubble

:: A wider canvas

:: Predictive software helps communication

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: WSU chemist applies Google software to webs of the molecular world }


:: First Words

:: Posts

:: Sports: After the games

:: In Season: What about buckwheat?

:: Last Words: Everyone could use a lift

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Recipe: Sonoko Sakai’s Nihachi Soba Noodles }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Campus shortcuts }


:: Robert Franklin ’75, ’76, ’79—A new leash on life

:: Pavlo Rudenko ’09—As fast as he can go

:: Nancy Gillett ’78—The business of science

:: Alumni news: Two alumni recognized for their contributions to food and agriculture

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Guide: A Guide to TriboTeX Nano-based Lubricant }

New Media

Soldiers of Paint by Doug Gritzmacher ’98 and Michael DeChant Jr.

Civility and Democracy in America: A Reasonable Understanding edited by Cornell W. Clayton and Richard Elgar

A Yankee on Puget Sound by Karen L. Johnson ’78 and Dennis M. Larsen ’68

New & Noteworthy: Operation Cody: An Undercover Investigation of Illegal Wildlife Trafficking in Washington State by Todd A. Vandivert ’79; Isaiah Shembe’s Prophetic Uhlanga by Joel E. Tishken; The Business of Android Apps Development/Taking Your Kindle Fire to the Max/LEGO Technic Robotics/Practical LEGO Technics by Mark Rollins ’94

On the cover: “Washington Road Trips” by John S. Dykes

Pavlo Rudenko is producing a lubricant with nano-scale particles. <em>Courtesy Hydro Research Foundation</em>


Pavlo Rudenko is producing a lubricant with nano-scale particles. Courtesy Hydro Research Foundation

Pavlo Rudenko ’09—As fast as he can go

by | © Washington State University

Imagine particles that can self-assemble at the nano-scale, so that machinery can delay its need for repair. Or that your 20-year-old truck could suddenly become more fuel efficient than today’s model.

Two years ago physics graduate student Pavlo Rudenko ’09 MS started his company, TriboTEX LLC, to develop bio-based super lubricants. He found that nanoparticles of ceramic powders in lubricants can, at high temperatures, create a film on metal surfaces that reduces both friction and wear behaviors.

He bought used analytical equipment off eBay and is running the business on a shoestring out of his home in Colfax.

Last summer he won a highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research grant for $150,000 from the National Science Foundation. The money is to support his development of ceramic nanosheets used to form a self-generating coating to improve lubrication in machinery.

Rudenko explains his life as a start-up entrepreneur with an analogy. “Trying to do business without money is like seeing how fast you can ride in a car without fuel,” he says. “You can push it, but you’re not going to go as fast as you should go.”

Originally from Ukraine, Rudenko came to the United States to attend graduate school at Washington State University. He began his research into lubricants with Amit Bandyopadhyay in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

In 2011, he was one of only 80 students in the nation to participate in Singularity University, a privately funded corporation that offers a 10-week summer program for graduate students. The program brings together specialists in academia, business, and government to harness technology for addressing critical global challenges.

Rudenko has found his business ideas have widespread appeal, taking prizes in WSU’s business plan competition in 2012 and being one of about 150 semifinalists in a national clean technology business competition, the Clean Tech Open. He is quick to credit several WSU faculty members and alumni advisors for mentoring and helping him to get his company off the ground.

To be a successful entrepreneur, Rudenko says, you have to have passion and drive. Maybe be a little crazy and not afraid to fail—a lot. “But,” he adds, “it’s only valid if what you do is going to change the world.’’

And he is certain that what he’s doing could change the world. “Every moving part can use our technology,’’ he says. And, yes, there are a lot of industrial moving parts.

In cars, for instance, one-third of an engine’s mechanical energy is lost to friction. If that energy could be conserved and his technology used in existing transportation systems, it would provide more energy than all that is generated by wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar sources combined or from all U.S. oil imports, he says. When the lubrication is improved, it will dramatically reduce fuel consumption and costs.

For now, Rudenko has put pursuit of his doctorate on hold in favor of developing his business. And he has worked to hone his entrepreneurial skills.

“If you go into an unknown country and try to dance on their national holiday, you will look awkward,’’ he says, as he explains his efforts at selling his ideas. “People expect you to do things in a certain way.’’

With the support of the SBIR grant, Rudenko is building his idea into a business. The highly competitive grant program provides seed money for high-risk, high-reward private sector ventures.

Rudenko envisions starting off by targeting gear boxes in windmills. The gear boxes notoriously wear out quickly, and to replace or repair them is extremely difficult, requiring at least a crane and a whole lot of expense. If the lubricant can delay the need for repair or replacement, then it may be widely adopted by the energy industry.

If his work goes as planned, Rudenko hopes that people are using his product in the next two years.

Categories: Alumni, Engineering | Tags: Inventors, Lubricants, Nanotechnology

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