Lubricants are of major importance to improve lifetime an energy efficiency of engines, machines or industrial processes etc., and to reduce friction and wear. Thus, lubricants have to fulfil different and increasing technical and environmental requirements. During the last years different types of biodegradable lubricants have been developed mainly based on synthetic esters and natural materials like rapeseed oil. Till now the use of biodegradable lubricants is very limited because technical requirements which have to be normally fulfilled could only be achieved by using biodegradable synthetic oils; 6 times more expensive than the traditional used mineral oils, which proved to be prohibitive for many applications as e.g. in earthmoving machines where a normal tank can contain 0.8 Tonnes of oil.
An economic alternative of these oils are vegetable oils. But up to the moment the experience of the Machine Manufacturers and the COST/Renewable environmentally friendly lubricants group of Tribology, with rapeseed based hydraulic oils have the following drawbacks : time dependence of viscosity at low temperatures, hydrolytic and oxidation stability problems and difficulties when filtering. Thus limiting their usage to those application, where only lower technical performance is requested. Due to this end users are reluctant to use these products.
A wider use of biodegradable lubricants could be achieved by using new base stocks from industrial crops, biological and chemically improving vegetable oils decreasing the content of non stable products in order to improve the rheologic behaviour of actual rapeseed oils, its oxidation and hydrolytic stability (by factor of 10), and decrease the actual limit of temperature of the machines, unless up to -26 C avoiding nucleation of paraffines. Transformation of these high performance oils into higher added value to lubricate gears is another objective of this project because no vegetable base biodegradable alternatives are available, simulating and avoiding at the laboratory the typical mechanism of failures of gears.
Thus combining the knowledge of the Oil Manufacturer (Repsol) developing high performance modified vegetal oil with high value added technology of the lubricant additive Manufacturer (Rhein Chemie), it is very likely that a new line of reliable vegetable lubricants can be obtained, which can substitute high cost synthetic esters and non biodegradable mineral oils in many applications (up to the 20 % of the whole lubricants market) and which will overcome the existing technical and economic limitations of actual biodegradable lubricants offered in the market. Requirements of new oils will be focus by a manufacturer of earth-moving machines (Liebherr), with a strong need to have biodegradable and high performance alternatives for its customers. Specialist in the world of tribology and surface treatment (HEF) and a research centre (Tekniker) with combined expertise in tribological behaviour, expert systems and environment issues will perform tests at laboratory, elements of machines and field tests in order to improve technical performance and efficiency of these new vegetal lubricants. Lifecycle analysis will help to evaluate environmental and cost effective complete chain.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts