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Title: Large-scale Manufacturing of Nanoparticulate-based Lubrication Additives for Improved Energy Efficiency and Reduced Emissions

This project was funded under the Department of Energy (DOE) Lab Call on Nanomanufacturing for Energy Efficiency and was directed toward the development of novel boron-based nanocolloidal lubrication additives for improving the friction and wear performance of machine components in a wide range of industrial and transportation applications. Argonne's research team concentrated on the scientific and technical aspects of the project, using a range of state-of-the art analytical and tribological test facilities. Argonne has extensive past experience and expertise in working with boron-based solid and liquid lubrication additives, and has intellectual property ownership of several. There were two industrial collaborators in this project: Ashland Oil (represented by its Valvoline subsidiary) and Primet Precision Materials, Inc. (a leading nanomaterials company). There was also a sub-contract with the University of Arkansas. The major objectives of the project were to develop novel boron-based nanocolloidal lubrication additives and to optimize and verify their performance under boundary-lubricated sliding conditions. The project also tackled problems related to colloidal dispersion, larger-scale manufacturing and blending of nano-additives with base carrier oils. Other important issues dealt with in the project were determination of the optimum size and concentration of the particles and compatibility with various base fluids and/or additives.more » Boron-based particulate additives considered in this project included boric acid (H{sub 3}BO{sub 3}), hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), boron oxide, and borax. As part of this project, we also explored a hybrid MoS{sub 2} + boric acid formulation approach for more effective lubrication and reported the results. The major motivation behind this work was to reduce energy losses related to friction and wear in a wide spectrum of mechanical systems and thereby reduce our dependence on imported oil. Growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions was also a major reason. The transportation sector alone consumes about 13 million barrels of crude oil per day (nearly 60% of which is imported) and is responsible for about 30% of the CO{sub 2} emission. When we consider manufacturing and other energy-intensive industrial processes, the amount of petroleum being consumed due to friction and wear reaches more than 20 million barrels per day (from official energy statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration). Frequent remanufacturing and/or replacement of worn parts due to friction-, wear-, and scuffing-related degradations also consume significant amounts of energy and give rise to additional CO{sub 2} emission. Overall, the total annual cost of friction- and wear-related energy and material losses is estimated to be rather significant (i.e., as much as 5% of the gross national products of highly industrialized nations). It is projected that more than half of the total friction- and wear-related energy losses can be recovered by developing and implementing advanced friction and wear control technologies. In transportation vehicles alone, 10% to 15% of the fuel energy is spent to overcome friction. If we can cut down the friction- and wear-related energy losses by half, then we can potentially save up to 1.5 million barrels of petroleum per day. Also, less friction and wear would mean less energy consumption as well as less carbon emissions and hazardous byproducts being generated and released to the environment. New and more robust anti-friction and -wear control technologies may thus have a significant positive impact on improving the efficiency and environmental cleanliness of the current legacy fleet and future transportation systems. Effective control of friction in other industrial sectors such as manufacturing, power generation, mining and oil exploration, and agricultural and earthmoving machinery may bring more energy savings. Therefore, this project was timely and responsive to the energy and environmental objectives of DOE and our nation. In this project, most of the boron-based materials with known and potential anti-friction and -wear properties have been manufactured as colloidal additives and tested for their effectiveness in controlling friction and wear. Unlike other anti-friction and -wear additives, which consist of zinc, molybdenum, sulfur, phosphorus, and even chlorine, lubricious boron compounds considered in this project are made of boron, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, which are more environmentally benign. Among others, boric acid is a natural mineral (known in mineralogy as "sassolite"). Based on our earlier exploratory research, it was found to offer the best overall prospect in terms of performance improvements, environmental friendliness, and ease of manufacturing and, hence, cost effectiveness. Hexagonal boron nitride and borax also offered good prospects for improving the tribological properties of lubricated sliding surfaces. Boron oxide particles were found to be rather hard and somewhat abrasive and, hence, were not considered beyond the initial screening studies. In our bench-top tribological evaluation, we also demonstrated that those additives which worked well with engine oils could work equally well with very common gear oils. When added at appropriate concentrations, such gear oils were found to provide significant resistance to micropitting and scuffing failures in bench-top tribological test systems. Their traction coefficients were also reduced substantially and their scuffing limits were improved considerably. Such impressive tribological behavior of boron-based additives may have been due to their high chemical affinities to interact with sliding contact surfaces and to form slick and protective boundary films. Indeed, our surface studies have confirmed that most of the boron-based nanoparticulate additives prepared in our project possess a strong tendency to form a boron-rich boundary film on sliding contact surfaces. It is believed that the formation of such slick and highly durable boundary films is perhaps one of the fundamental reasons for their superior anti-friction, -wear, and -scuffing performance. Boron-based additives developed under this project have shown potential to reduce or replace the uses of environmentally unsafe sulfur- and phosphorus-bearing anti-wear and friction additives, such as zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP) and molybdenum dialkyl dithiocarbamate (MoDTC), in current lubricating oils. Because ZDDP and MoDTC were suspected of adversely impacting the performance of after-treatment catalysts in current engines, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory agencies are demanding that the concentrations of these catalysts in current oils be curtailed drastically. The boron-based nano-additives developed in this project may help reduce the use of ZDDP and MoDTC additives and, hence, help ease the poisoning effects on after-treatment catalysts. When used as lubricity additives, these boron additives can chemically interact with sliding or contacting surfaces and form a protective and slick boundary film, which can, in turn, help reduce friction and wear and increase resistance to scuffing. In the cases of traditional anti-friction and -wear additives mentioned, such protective boundary films result from phosphorus, sulfur, and other elements in the additive package, and again they have been under increased scrutiny in recent years, mainly because of their adverse effects on after-treatment devices. Overall, the boron-based nano-additive technology of this project was shown to hold promise for a broad range of industrial and transportation applications where lower friction and higher resistance to wear and scuffing are needed. Due to more stringent operating conditions of modern machinery, rolling, rotating, and sliding components have been failing to meet the projected lifetimes, mainly because of failures related to mechanical wear, corrosion, and scuffing. The novel boron-based additive technology developed under this project may help such machine components to function reliably by cutting down the friction and wear losses and by increasing resistance to scuffing.« less
  1. Argonne National Laboratory
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE EE Office of Industrial Technologies (EE-2F)
Country of Publication:
United States