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Is your lubricant running low? Just add water

19 October, 2017

The German lubrication specialist, Klüber Lubrication, has developed a water-based lubricant which, it predicts, could revolutionise the future of specialty lubricants. Its Hydro Lubricant technology could transform the maintenance of industrial gearboxes to simply topping them up with water. The fluids, in which water forms a homogeneous solution with water-soluble oils, could also eliminate contamination problems, and make plants safer and cleaner.

“Compared with the present-day oil-based lubricants, water offers numerous important functional advantages: it is sustainable, globally available, non-toxic and non-flammable”, points out Dr Stefan Seemeyer, Klüber’s head of research and product development.

However, until now, he adds, water has been of limited use as a lubricant because it is “subject to certain physical and biological limitations – like evaporation and freezing points, oxidation or microbiological growth”. But “by means of additives in the lubricant or technical solutions at the component concerned, these limits can be shifted, and the water-specific effects rendered beneficially usable. With a water-based product concept, we’ve even been able to reduce the friction involved far enough to bring the range of ‘super-lubricity’ within reach.”

Using water as a lubricant component opens up new options in the choice of other ingredients. Because water-soluble substances are not usually soluble in oil, they were previously ruled out when developing lubricants. With new ingredients, it will be possible to achieve previously impossible performance properties, such as enhanced cooling or much lower friction, leading to energy savings.

The properties of water itself could also be beneficial. For example, evaporated water could be retained in the circuit inside an enclosed component, and used for cooling. It might also be possible to exploit water’s electrical conductivity. This will open up new options in many types of application, particularly in electrical transport, Klüber suggests.

Klüber says that its water-based lubricants can exhibit much lower levels of friction than conventional lubricants, thus saving energy

“The speciality lubricant of the future will have to solve hitherto unknown challenges,” points out Michaela Wiesböck, group leader in Klüber’s research and product development department. “In view of increasingly stringent expectations of lubricants in terms of performance capabilities – energy-efficiency and eco-compatibility on the one hand, and the finite availability of fossil raw materials, on the other – the demand for innovative lubrication concepts based entirely on renewable raw materials is becoming apparent.”

Klüber is already using the Hydro Lubricant technology in its Klüberplus C2 product for conveyor belts. The company is also working with partners from various sectors, to use the water-based lubricants in gearboxes, bearings, chains, and other components. We are “only starting to explore its potential,” it says.

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