Nano-Lubricant to Reduce Fuel Consumption

A lubricant with an exceptional low friction coefficient has been developed by scientists in the Argonne National Laboratory. The lubricant is based on boric acid particles 50 nanometers in diameter. Such nano-scaled particles offer both lubricity and stability when mixed with motor oil for industrial uses.
Argonne researcher Ali Erdemir performs a friction test on a metal disc coated with a solution of motor oil with nano-boric acid particles.  
Argonne researcher Ali Erdemir
performs a friction test on
a metal disc coated
with a solution of motor oil
with nano-boric acid particles.

Industrial motors and machinery are lubricated to decrease friction between moving parts. The friction causes energy loss due to heat generation and the wearing of the machinery. Because of the massive fuel consumption by the industrial sector, even a reduction of a few percent in fuel consumption rates will significantly reduce  the economical and environment costs of  industry. Ali Erdemir, Senior Scientist in Argonne, says that by using the new nano based lubricant a reduction of up to five percent in fuel consumption is possible. 

Boric acid is formed of stacks of crystalline layers (see title image). Each such layer has a very tight bonding within itself, but the bonding between  layers is relatively weak. This combination of strong and weak forces enables a relatively easy motion of the molecules, creating the low friction coefficient of the compound. 

Ali Erdemir added that there are more economical and environmental benefits to the lubricant. The new lubricant is safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional lubricants that usually contain special chemicals. Also, boron is a plentiful resource, lowering production costs. Before the new lubricant can be mass produced and sold it still needs to undergo rigorous environmental and safety tests. 

In 2004, the Israeli company ApNano Materials revealed the first ever solid lubricant based on nanotechnology. ApNano’s material called NanoLub is made out of nano-spheres of inorganic compounds that were discovered at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. One of the most important advantages of the NanoLub is the ability to stay effective even on non-polished surfaces. Usually, parts must be mechanically polished to achieve the smoothest possible surface in order to  reduce friction. However, because of its nano ball bearing-like structure NanoLub can reduce friction very efficiently even for rough contacting surfaces. 

More about this new lubricant may be found in Argonne National Laboratory’s website.