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Safer lubricants may help energy generation

In industries where temperatures are high and hazards are not uncommon, the use of fire-resistant materials is very important.
Safer lubricants may help energy generation
A new generation of lubricants for steam turbines can last much longer than others and resist fire hazards more effectively. The energy industry is one area that can benefit from using fire retardant lubricants for gas and steam power turbines that generate power.

The EU-funded project 'Steam power generation turbines' (Safelube) worked on developing lubricants based on phosphate esters, which boast superior oxidative stability and longevity. These lubricants are normally very costly and challenging to process, thus requiring much human intervention.

To address this challenge, project partners considered a remote sensing and conditioning system that is less costly and creates lubricants that could match the lifecycle of the turbine. The concept is based on solid-state laser diode sensors to monitor the process, manage acid and remove water in the lubricants. Furthermore, the Safelube system was designed to operate online on a continuous basis to ensure optimum use of resources, reduce production costs and maximise operational life.

The team members worked on outlining key properties of moisture levels and chlorine levels. They also made progress on developing sensors, as well as removing water and acid. Efforts included membrane regeneration technology for removal of water, acids and other substances. The project outlined the standards and limits for the whole process, paving the way for exploitation.

However, as some of the project partners had to withdraw from the project, further progress was halted. The techniques and research achieved have been protected by intellectual property rights (IPR), with the hope that the project consortium will soon be revitalised. The valuable headway achieved under this topic will be of benefit to industry if the project is revived.

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