Military Plastic for Sleeve Bearings

Problem: Performance Plastics, Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio needed a lower cost and less moisture sensitive alternative to polyimide plastic for sleeve bearings. Bearings using PEEK plastic in current use have high friction. Plastic use in structures for supersonic aircraft has always been limited by high temperatures. The Air Force wanted a high temperature plastic for a jet engine compressor blade sleeve bearing and other high temperature sliding applications.

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Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Performance Plastics, invented an alloy blend of an Air Force, rigid-rod polymer and a conventional bearing plastic that achieved sufficient crystallinity to get acceptable temperature resistance for a compressor sleeve bearing. AFRL made some of this alloy in the laboratory and tested its properties.


  • Society could benefit by getting quieter, longer lasting, plastic bearings.
  • Performance Plastics could benefit by the use of these new materials in its bearing business as well as allowing expansion in related markets.
  • AFRL could benefit by the development of these new materials for use in military bearings and other U.S. Government components.
  • AFRL could also benefit by earning a royalty on commercial sales of this new polymer alloy.

Current Status:

  • AFRL researched the literature, proposed several new concepts, and made and tested several laboratory samples.
  • Unfortunately, the AFRL rigid rod polymers do not have the necessary processing characteristics for bearing fabrication and these types of polymers are currently still too expensive for bearing use. The rigid rod chemical precursors still come from bench scale production facilities, hence the high cost.
  • The CRADA is complete.
If you have any questions about this Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or are interested in getting more information about technology transfer and CRADA projects, please contact Jim Singer at Wright Technology Network (937) 253-0217 or CRADA@wtn.org

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