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Novel, water-based lubricant packages for green engineering solutions

Department of Mechanical Engineering

About the Project

Current oil packages will soon not meet legal standards for gas emissions, as they rely on lubricants first created in the 1940s. Since then, research has established that these additives are broken down and released into the environment, where they can pose a problem to human health. Legislation is coming into effect which limits emissions of unburnt hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxides. This means the lubricant additive/oil industry must change their current formulations to ensure both excellent lubricant properties and a far better safety profile.

Phosphorus and sulphur are common components of these additive packages – both of which can ‘poison’ catalytic converts, causing more emission problems

This creates the ideal time to research novel lubricants. Moving from an oil based system has large, built in cost savings.

Oil lubrication (derived from mineral oil, animal fat or plants) has a far higher cost associated with production of the base fluid and cannot be re-used (due to acid/soot accumulation). Whilst in its infancy, inroads are being made into the field of water based lubrication for specific applications. One of these is marine bearings.

Replacing oil based lubricants with water based ones will directly reduce costs by virtue of water being an easily obtainable, recyclable feed stock. Implementing advanced tribological technologies (lubricant blending and potentially the use of coated machine parts) could reduce CO2 emissions globally, possibly by as much as 1,460 MtCO2. This would result in 450,000 million Euros of cost savings in the short term.

Methodology: Initially, rapid screening of potential replacement additives could be achieved using a pin-on-plate type tribometer. This will give information on specific additives performance.

Once a library of additives (corrosion inhibitors, friction modifiers, detergents) have been assessed, work will move closer to a real-world application of the technology, though the use of a marine bearing rig. This will allow assessment of water-soluble additive packages for their overall effects on friction, wear and general performance.


The successful candidate will be expected to have a 1st or 2:1 degree in Engineering, Materials Science, Physics, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics, or other Relevant Discipline.

Funding Notes

This project is only available for self funded applicants.

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