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Next generation of additives could reduce American oil consumption

A development team in the US recently created new engine oil additives that protect against wear and increase fuel economy.

The researchers were honoured with a R&D 100 award for their work, which could potentially save the US the equivalent of millions of barrels of oil every year.

Additives are currently used to lower the viscosity of engine oils, reducing wear and friction and thus increasing fuel economy, but many of the most frequently used types cause damaging deposits to build up inside engines. Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee teamed up with researchers from Shell, General Motors, and Lubrizol to develop a range of ionic liquids that could be used in the future as lubricant additives.

The ionic solutions contain molecules that are electrically attracted to the metal surface of bearings. They are adsorbed onto the surface, where they react with the area that they are in contact with, forming a protective nanostructured film. This coats the bearings, reducing friction and protecting against wear.

In tests, engine lubricants that contained the ionic liquid additives was seen to improve fuel economy by over 2% when compared with the engine oil Mobil 1 ESP Formula 5W/30, which, along with Mobil 1 New Life 0W/40, is one of the world’s leading synthetic engine lubricants.

As annual oil consumption in the US is presently in the region of seven billion barrels, it is possible that these innovative additives could reduce that total by tens of millions.

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