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Scientists develop new liquid crystal lubricant

Researchers at Freiburg’s Fraunhofer Institute have created a lubricant made up of liquid crystal, a substance that has until now been used to make display screens.

Even though lubricants are essential products that are widely used in manufacturing machinery and motors, innovations in the field of lubrication have been stalled for around two decades.

This makes the recent development of a new form of lubricant in Freiburg, Germany, particularly important.

The Fraunhofer researchers found that liquid crystal is suitable for use as a lubricant because it is made up of long, thin molecules. When inserted between two moving surfaces that slide over one another, the molecules line up in parallel fashion forming stable layers. The layers slide across one another easily, reducing friction and degradation.

After their initial findings proved promising, the scientists carried out further work to create a liquid crystal lubricant that would be suitable for practical use. The result, a prototype lubricant that performed particularly well in sliding iron bearings, won them the Stifterverband Science Prize.

The researchers are now focusing on producing innovative sliding bearings for use in small electric motors. The bearings will be lubricated by liquid crystal and the motors could be put to work in the automotive industry, powering windscreen wipers and alternators.

It may be some time before the new liquid crystal formulation is available for sale but, until then, there are a number of alternative, quality products to choose from, such as Shell Gadus S2 V100 3, which is a multi-purpose grease that can be used to lubricate the bearings inside motors.

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