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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal.

Innovative synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal are here!

With synthetic lubricants used in motors, axles, ventilators and many other systems few have yet heard of synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal.

Although lubricants are widely used, there have been almost no fundamental innovations over the past twenty years. Recently, together with a consortium, the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg have developed an entirely new
class of synthetic lubricant that could change the way the world views lubrication. This new Frauenhofer synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal has a chemical makeup that sets it apart from other classes of lubricant.

Although it is a liquid, the molecules display directional properties like crystals do. When two surfaces move in opposite directions, the liquid crystal molecules between the two surfaces align themselves so that the frictional resistance is extremely low. This enables nearly frictionless sliding far exceeding the properties of traditional lubes.

Liquid crystals are widely used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) for TV screens, mobile phones and touchscreens. Initial research was initiated by Nematel GmbH, which then invited Fraunhofer IWM to get involved to see if it would work. Dr. Tobias Amann, from Frauenhofer, applied the synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal between two metal test-pieces. Already in the first test, extremely low friction coefficients were measured.

Match-shaped molecules form a synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal.

The researchers at Fraunhofer IWM discovered that liquid crystals are well suited to lubricant applications because of the shape of the molecules which are long and thin. “When used as a lubricant between two surfaces that slide past each other, the molecules become aligned in parallel to each other in ordered boundary layers,” explains Dr. Andreas Kailer, acting director for the Tribology business unit at Fraunhofer IWM. During testing These layers were found to be very stable whilst sliding easily over each other, keeping friction and wear to a minimum. This discovery meant that synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal was a definite possibility.

Howeve there was still a long road ahead before before a liquid crystal lubricant suitable for practical applications could be developed. Fraunhofer IWM launched a project along with Nematel GmbH and the lubricant experts at Dr. Tillwich GmbH in 2010, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Using additives to improve the characteristics of the synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal.

Susanne Beyer-FaiƟ, a chemist at Tillwich, improved the liquid crystal’s stability by blending with some unusual additives. At the same time, her colleague, Werner Stehr, built a special test unit that uses laser technology to enable contact-free measurement of the extremely low friction coefficients. At Fraunhofer IWM, Tobias Amann tested different liquid crystals manufactured by Dr. Holger Kretzschmann at Nematel; among other substances, Amann conducted friction experiments with various materials, including iron, copper and ceramic.

During this time he also examined the chemical mechanisms displayed during operation and the effects of mixing different liquid crystal molecules. Tobias Amann deciphered the mechanisms responsible for these ultra-low frictional coefficients in the synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal and discovered how to further optimize the new lubricants in specific applications. In concluding the project, the partners had produced a liquid crystalline lubricant prototype that performed best in sliding bearings made of iron.

Currently, the project members are developing innovative sliding bearings lubricated with synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal for small electric motors used in the automotive industry; such as alternators and windshield wiper motors.

Although synthetic lubricant made of liquid crystal hold great promise in specific applications in the future, it’s wise to choose a high quality fully synthetic lubricant, such as those produced by Habot Synthetic Lubricants to protect your assets today. Call our offices for professional advice on what lubricants you should be using.


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