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The future of speciality lubricants

February 27. 2017

The future of speciality lubricants

In our new interview series, experts from Klüber Lubrication answer questions concerning future trends and innovations in the field of speciality lubricants.

Michaela Wiesboeck from Research and Product Developmet will provide insights into which alternative base oils and additives will change the world of speciality lubricants in the future.

 

How do you picture the speciality lubricant of the future?

The speciality lubricant of the future has to meet and overcome many unknown challenges. On the one hand, we experience increasing environmental awareness of our customers that demand using eco-friendly, non-hazardous and sustainable produced products. On the other hand, the requirements placed on the lubricant's performance, in terms of lifetime lubrication, continue to rise.

Taking into consideration all the requirements the lubricant has to meet and the scarcity of natural resources, the need for innovative lubricant formulations becomes evident.

 

How does this demand look like?

Our customers are using new materials or material combinations in their innovations, always with the focus on higher performance and process reliability.

The trend towards smart high-performance materials entails new tasks for the lubricant industry. An issue of the future will certainly be the compatibility and optimisation of our speciality lubricants for use in self-lubricating components, the so-called sandwich lubrication.

Following extensive research in 2009, we discovered a raw material which provides us from a chemical, technical and tribological perspective with many new opportunties: water.

 

This is quite an unusual lubricant. How did you come up with the idea?

Water is indispensable in our everyday life: it is an important foodstuff, helps us clean our home and refreshes us after a mountain bike tour. Hence, water is a raw material that is neither causing any harm to eatables nor to the environment. Water-based lubricants are not that uncommon. Every day we use aqueous systems that possess a lubricating effect, for example soapsuds.

This discovery made us examine the subject of water-based technology more in detail. The use of water as a lubricant component offers completely new opportunities, mainly because of the new range of raw materials. Water-soluble substances are rarely oil-soluble and therefore are of minor importance in the conventional development of lubricants. This is how we identified new lubricant components and achieved performance parameters which have not been achieved so far.

 

How do these performance parameter look like?

In a water-based product concept we were able to reduce friction to such an extent that the "superlubricity" effect was confidently achieved. My colleagues and I had not expected such a significant reduction of the friction coefficient and we are looking forward to analyse further advantages together with our customers, for instance energy savings and service life extensions of components.

We also noticed a clear reduction of operating temperature, which has a positive impact on energy savings and emissions.

 

Which additional advantages do water-based lubricants offer?

Another approach is to make use of the more obvious properties water has to offer, such as electric or thermal conductivity. This creates many new opportunities for a wide range of applications, such as in eMobility.

There are some applications that face an increased and undesired water intrusion into the component, which will finally cause its failure. With an optimised water-based lubricant, external water intrusion is causing a lower risk. This is based on the fact that a water-based lubricant can handle water intrusion of up to 50 percent, without impacting on the performance of the component.

In addition, washability is another advantage. For example, we took a water-based lubricant and added a mild detergent and achieved immense benefits in the cleaning of components. The customer can simplify cleaning processes significantly and min-imise downtime. Moreover, our new technology offers advantages in terms of transport, application use, cleaning and disposal. Thus, our new technology clearly adds to our customer’s sustainability.

 

What are your next steps?

We are currently testing other solutions which clearly improve work safety and fire protection. In one application, we use water to replace solvent in order to reduce the formation of toxic vapours and at the same time simplify the previous application method.

From a chemical and tribological point of view, I believe that our new water-based technology generates many new opportunities.

I am convinced that we will soon find committed cooperation partners in order to advance this innovative solution. This is how we can create new innovations and shape the future together with our customers.

 

Michaela Wiesboeck is Group Manager in the Research and Product Development Department at Klüber Lubrication and responsible for developing water-based lubricants.

Would you like to know more about water-based specialtiy lubricants? Please contact us via innovation@klueber.com.