Synthetic Lubricants Derived from Plastic Waste and their Tribological Performance

Date
2021-05-26
Authors
Hackler, Ryan
Vyavhare, Kimaya
Kennedy, Robert
Celik, Gokhan
Kanbur, Uddhav
Griffin, Philip
Sadow, Aaron
Zang, Guiyan
Elgowainy, Amgad
Sun, Pingping
Poeppelmeier, Kenneth
Erdemir, Ali
Delferro, Massimiliano
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Ames Laboratory
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Chemistry
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Ames LaboratoryChemistry
Abstract

The energy efficiency, mechanical durability, and environmental compatibility of all moving machine components rely heavily on advanced lubricants for smooth and safe operation. Herein we discovered and tested an alternative family of high-quality liquid (HQL) lubricants derived by the catalytic conversion of pre- and post-consumer polyolefin waste. The plastic-derived lubricants performed comparably to synthetic base oils such as polyalphaolefins (PAOs), both with a wear scar volume (WSV) of 7.5 x 10 -5 . HQLs also performing superior to petroleum-based lubricants such as Group III mineral oil with a WSV of 1.7 x 10 -4 , showcasing a 44% reduction in wear. Furthermore, a synergistic reduction in friction and wear was observed when combining the upcycled plastic lubricant with synthetic oils. Life cycle (LCA) and techno-economic (TEA) analyses also showed this process to be energetically efficient and economically feasible. This novel technology offers a cost-effective opportunity to reduce the harmful environmental impact of plastic waste on our planet and to save energy through reduction of friction and wear-related degradations in transportation applications akin to synthetic oils.

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