Imagine engines that conserve fuel by automatically dialing down internal friction, water pipes that seal their own cracks and iPhones that protect themselves when dropped. Metallurgist Pradeep Rohatgi has—and he invented the futuristic materials necessary to build these smart products.

For 40 years, Rohatgi has been steadily creating metal matrix composites, which combine standard metal alloys with completely different classes of material—ceramics, nanoparticles and even recycled waste—to give them “smart” qualities.

For all their potential, most of Rohatgi’s creations sat on the shelf for decades. But a flourishing entrepreneurial culture at UW-Milwaukee, the right partners and a national push for conservation and energy independence convinced him to make the leap into the commercial sphere. He’s doing so with a product line made using a self-lubricating composite, one he believes will cut friction in internal combustion engines significantly, saving gas while reducing emissions.

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