Analytical Instrumentation

  • How Can Graphene Improve Lubricants?

How Can Graphene Improve Lubricants?

Apr 04 2020 Read 446 Times

When graphene was discovered in 2004 by a professor at the University of Manchester the news sent ripples throughout the petrochemicals industry. Stronger than diamond, the two-dimensional material is made up of a single layer of carbon atoms bound in a hexagonal lattice. Scientists were enamoured by its incredible potential, coveting it as a 'wonder material' for manufacturing high-capacity batteries, spaceships, solar panels, folding smartphones and more.

While the excitement surrounding the honeycomb-shaped material slowly fizzled out, a recent report published in Advanced Engineering Materials claims graphene can be used to enhance the performance of lubricants. The idea was inspired by the unique friction and wear properties offered by the two-dimensional material.

Graphene used to reinforce polymer nanocomposites

The study was led by researchers from Henan University of Science and Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who designed a porous 3D graphene-based material for use as a nanoscale filler. Thanks to the excellent strength and durability of the material, 3D graphene proved to be an effective way to reinforce polymer nanocomposites. To minimise friction, the researchers added additional fillers such as paraffin wax to reduce wear and tear.

Professor Bingli Pan, one of the lead authors of the study, says one of the biggest challenges was maintaining the structure of the porous 3D graphene lubricant during the polymerisation stage. To overcome the issue, the team used a polyurethane (PU) foam vehicle and graphene oxide.

“The tribological properties of the composite are extremely excellent even under harsh sliding conditions, and only a small amount of graphene filler is needed through the formation of three-dimensional structures, which can save on cost," explains Pan. "Therefore, the composite can be used as sliding parts under high loads and high sliding velocities involved in many industries and fields in the future.”

Harnessing the lubrication properties of graphene

Pan and his team aren't the first scientists to investigate the benefits of graphene-enhanced lubricants, with German-based company HELLA launching a series of engine lubricating oil additives enriched with graphene. According to HELLA, the lubricants reduce engine wear by 50%.

Engine and lubricating oils are essential for most motors, working to maximise performance and extend lifespan. For a closer look at the outstanding capabilities of the wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) benchtop spectrometer S6 JAGUAR, and to find out more about how it's being used to analyse lubricating and engine oils, don't miss 'S6 JAGUAR Accurate Analyses of Additives and Contaminants in Lubricating Oil –ASTM D6443 compliant!' with expert insight from Kai Behrens on behalf of Bruker AXS

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