From 15th to 17 October 2018 professionals from 80 countries met at the HYDRO 2018 in Gdansk, Poland, to discuss and share experience on the most relevant topics in the hydropower industry. Some of the core subjects covered international cooperation, timely maintenance, sustainability as well as new developments in research and technology.
Dr. Balasubramaniam Vengudusamy, Senior Research Tribologist at Klüber Lubrication presented an innovative and future orientated topic: He talked about a lubricant concept based on water as a base fluid, hence the name Hydro Lubricants, for sliding bearings used in hydropower applications.
As the current industrial growth requires new innovative and more sustainable solutions, it is becoming harder for conventional lubricants to meet environmental demands. In addition to this, they also have reached their functional limits concerning tribological properties. While searching for a substance that can keep up with all general and industry-specific challenges, water is the obvious choice of basic raw material. It has long been used in hydropower applications but mainly with self-lubricating bearing materials to avoid problems like wear and corrosion. One of the main reasons for using self-lubricating composite materials with water-based lubrication is the poor load carrying capacity of water. Due to being less viscous, it is obvious that water cannot build up adequate hydrodynamic pressure to support the shaft in plain bearings and prevent wear, hence the use of wear resistant materials.
As Dr. Vengudusamy showed, Hydro Lubricants can be a promising solution to sliding bearings. Water-based lubricants can be tailored to achieve necessary hydrodynamic film thickness. Sliding bearing test results indicate that Hydro Lubricants exhibit excellent film forming and hydrodynamic properties in comparison to a conventionally used reference mineral oil. Furthermore, they possess excellent properties including lower operating temperature and friction, leading to significant energy savings, which makes them potential candidates for applications that demand for environment-friendly solutions with promising tribological properties.