Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Software tools monitor greener lubricants

Lubrication is critical to the efficient functioning and enhanced lifetime of moving machine parts. EU-funded researchers developed environmentally friendly lubricants with better or improved performance compared to conventional counterparts along with software tools for lubricant monitoring .
Software tools monitor greener lubricants
In order to decrease friction and thus the heat and wear it produces, companies typically apply mineral-based lubricants. Increasing sensitivity to the potential hazards associated with the usage and disposal of lubricants has led to a growing interest in environmentally friendly greases and oils.

The ‘Towards long-life bio-lubricants using advanced design and monitoring tools’ (Biomon) project was initiated to develop long-life bio-oils based on high performance natural esters and biodegradable greases based on these esters mixed with thickeners and resistant to high temperatures and oxidation.

The research team set out to study friction, wear and lubrication (tribology) related to environmentally friendly lubricants for ball screws, roller bearings and gears. In order to accomplish the studies without the extensive real operation required to evaluate long-term use, the investigators developed simulation tools to study artificial contamination and degradation of oils and greases.

From the 40 lubricant formulations developed, the researchers produced and tested the 6 most promising prototypes. All satisfied criteria for European ECOLABEL categorisation to help consumers select greener products. In addition, all performed at least as well if not better than their conventional commercial counterparts in real tests.

Exploitation of the simulation tools and results led to development of lubricant condition monitoring routines. The team incorporated these into a Web-based software system to facilitate the creation of lubrication maintenance management programmes by employees, incorporating analysis of oil and vibration parameters and issuing alarms at different levels based on the wear measurements.

In summary, the Biomon project resulted in the development of biodegradable, non-toxic lubricants eligible for ECOLABEL classification. The lubricants outperformed mineral-based competitors with the potential to generate tremendous cost savings while protecting the environment. In addition, the use of bio-oils could greatly stimulate the European agricultural sector growing vegetable oils as a source of native esters. Furthermore, the researchers delivered a lubricant maintenance management tool that could also significantly decrease maintenance costs. Taken together, application of the Biomon outcomes has the potential to positively impact both the European economy and the environment.

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