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Lubricant Chemistry and Technology in Aqueous and Oxidative Environments

Final Activity Report Summary - LUBRICANT CHEMISTRY (Lubricant chemistry and technology in aqueous and oxidative environments)

In 2007 Dr. Svajus "Joseph" Asadauskas returned to Lithuania after receiving his PhD in USA and working as a lubricant researcher in USA for 14 years. Upon returning, he set up and managed Tribology Group with 3 full time and 2 half time researchers at the Institute of Chemistry in Vilnius, Lithuania. Experimental facilities were established, extensive collection of chemicals was acquired and a number of investigations carried out in electrochemistry, oxidation and industrial utilisation of renewable resources. Various spectroscopy, gravimetrical, microscopy and X-ray analysis techniques were employed in his research towards improved understanding of lubricant chemistry and tribology. Dr. Asadauskas determined or clarified the roles of various lubricant additives, such as soaps, esters, amides, glycols, phosphates, polysulphides, antioxidants.

Particular attention was devoted to the most prevalent component of a lubricant, its base oil (a.k.a. basestock). More than 90% of lubricant volume worldwide originates from petroleum, since engine oils and hydraulic fluids are usually based on mineral oils. Dr. Asadauskas was able to transfer his know-how from USA, where he worked on using vegetable oils, renewable esters and even water to create various lubricants and replace mineral oils. He cooperated with researchers from the Institute and Kaunas University of Technology in synthesising new chemicals with better technical properties than existing basestocks from renewable resources. Also he cooperated with biotechnology researchers to utilise enzyme-based biosynthesis in the basestock production. These activities generated a new line of research in this project. Investigations of the new oils lead to his most important scientific achievement during the project. Along with the project management and Institute's co-workers, Dr. Asadauskas established a new direction in electrochemistry, where a thin oil film is placed on the electrode and examined by Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy. This highly sensitive technique shows many rapid changes in the oil film and only some of these processes could be explained with existing knowledge. These observations can be related to important industrial processes, such as corrosion, evaporation, oxidation or adsorption. Industrial collaboration showed that in some cases such electrochemical techniques permit elimination of long, expensive and resource-intensive bench testing. Electrochemical findings of the Tribology group were presented at Ecotrib conference (Italy), immediately receiving invitations for further presentations and publishing in research journals.

The thin film research aligned well with the expertise of other researchers in the Institute, who focused on corrosion, material science or surface analysis. In total, nearly 20 researchers of Institute of Chemistry alone participated in the collaborative studies with Dr. Asadauskas. During this time his research findings were presented at 19 conferences and articles published in 2 ISI journals. In addition, he set up externally funded research partnerships with Vilnius University, Lithuanian Agricultural University, Institute of Biotechnology and several industrial companies. The flow of this additional funding allows Dr. Asadauskas and the Tribology Group be assured that their research activities will successfully continue beyond the completion of the International Reintegration project.