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The future of speciality lubricants (part 4)

July 20. 2017

The future of speciality lubricants (part 4)

In our fourth interview on speciality lubricants, Dr. Martin Schweigkofler from R&D provides insight 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?

There is and will not be such a thing as ‘The’ speciality lubricant of the future. But I am convinced that speciality lubricants will continue to play a major role.

The need of customized special lubricants will rise in future. This means that they will be designed in a way to meet even higher temperatures, loads and speeds. Besides this, they have to enable longer service lives and reduced lubricant quantities, even for new materials and surfaces as well as a large variety of material combinations and compatibility requirements.

Apart from mere technical performance, there will be an increasing demand for simple, low-cost applications and safe handling of the special lubricant. Ideally, the lubricant should be free of solvents and enable safe material handling.

….are there further aspects to be addressed in future?

Yes, of course: Topics like environmental impact, renewable raw materials, biodegradability, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental friendly disposal will gain importance. Ideally, the speciality lubricant is approved for contact with foodstuffs and can be marketed globally.

….which additional topics are important?

Water used as a constituent of lubricants offers clear advantages. These are for instance, explosion and fire protection, atmospheric pollution, inhalation toxicity and occupational safety.

That sounds exciting. Which other advantages arise?

Hydro Lubricants offer technical advantages. There is an increasing request for speciality lubricants that possess electric conductivity in order to prevent current-induced component failure.

Furthermore, Hydro Lubricants possess excellent cooling properties, which is crucial for gear applications. In many cases, the performance of conventional lubricant reduces significantly through water intrusion – even a low percentage of water intrusion reduces the lubricating capacity significantly. This of course is not an issue with Hydro Lubricants, as they are designed to contain a substantial amount of water and therefore are very resistant to water intrusion.

Apart from gears, which other applications could be interesting for Hydro Lubricants?

They could be of great interest to applications in wet environments, e.g. in the marine and hydropower industry. Here, another advantage of Hydro Lubricants takes effect, due to the solubility of the constituents in water, their biodegradability usually is good. Hydro Lubricants can also have a cleaning effect in certain cases, e.g. on conveyor belts in filling lines which are contaminated by milk or sweet drinks. In addition, Hydro Lubricants or their residues can be cleaned off much easier by adding conventional cleaning agents.

…interesting, can you name examples?

(laughs), I remember when I was spending much time on ‘Lego Technic’ projects. The power of the small electric engines often was not sufficient to execute the intended movements. Therefore, I used sewing machine oil to lubricate the driving elements. I mostly carried out my experiments on the carpet. Using Hydro Lubricants for such applications clearly reduces the risk of getting into trouble with my family. Many of my colleagues that share my passion for ‘Lego Technic’ have made the same experience and are convinced of the technical advantages of Hydro Lubricants, even though at this stage we are not selling to end customers.

…which opportunities and challenges do you picture related to Hydro Lubricants?

The chance is high that the new concept of Hydro Lubricants allows us to make use of new applications that have not been possible so far. In many cases existing designs will have to be adjusted and modified in order to respond to the biggest weakness of Hydro Lubricants: their water content will evaporate in insufficiently sealed systems, thus impacting on the lubricant properties.

…does this result in problems for our customers?

On the contrary, companies, mainly market leaders, show interest in Hydro Lubricants for test purposes. The new concept supports them to boost innovation and adds value to their technology innovation capacity. Moreover, Hydro Lubricants can be an interesting option for customers that prioritize sustainability.

The use of such an innovative lubricant concept, which offers many pioneering advantages in terms of environment can certainly be an interesting selling point for customers. Last but not least, Hydro Lubricants can change the negative image of "classic greases", as the handling of Hydro Lubricants is not associated with smeared overalls, hand cleaning paste and stained towels. Removing a smudge with clear water is a sustainable experience too.

Dr. Martin Schweigkofler Group Leader responsible for fluor, chains, textile and also in charge of developing Hydro Lubricants.

If you like to know more about Hydro Lubricants, please contact us by email at: innovation@klueber.com