Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Almost frictionless

11.11.2008
Lubricants in bearings and gear units ensure that not too much energy is lost through friction. Yet it still takes a certain percentage of the energy to compensate for friction losses. Lubricants made of liquid crystals could reduce friction to almost zero.

Passengers check in their suitcases, which are automatically transported away by conveyer belts; moving walkways and escalators run for hours without a break – thousands of gear units rattle away at the major airports. The power consumption is tremendous, in the range of several gigawatt hours per annum.

A substantial amount of this is lost through friction. In wind turbines and in cars, too, a percentage of the energy is spent on friction – reducing the efficiency factor accordingly. Novel lubricants that almost eliminate the effect of friction could be the answer. Once they have been set in motion, the bearings run and run and run.

But what makes the new lubricant different from the oils that were used to lubricate bearings until now? “This lubricant is made from liquid crystals like the ones we know from flat-screen monitors,” explains Dr. Andreas Kailer, head of department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg. “In contrast to normal liquids, the molecules in liquid crystals have a certain orientation – you might compare them to matches with their heads all pointing in the same direction.”

In a joint project with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam and the Mainz-based company Nematel, the IWM researchers are investigating which liquid crystals are most suitable for use as lubricants, and under what conditions. Their testing unit exerts a certain amount of force on a clamped metal cylinder that is moved back and forth over a supporting contact surface. With which lubricant does the machine require the smallest amount of energy to move the metal cylinder?

While the friction hardly changes when using conventional oil, it drops to almost zero after a while when liquid crystals are used. The time that this takes depends primarily on the pressure with which the moving cylinder is pressed against the contact surface. If you were to compare it to a toboggan, it would correspond to the weight of the child sitting on it. “Liquid crystals have not been suitable as a lubricant for ball bearings until now, as the contact pressure is too high – the friction does not drop far enough.

“For slide bearings, on the other hand, liquid crystals are the perfect solution,” says Kailer. Since liquid crystals have been produced mainly for monitors up to now, they have to be ultra-pure – which makes them very expensive. So the researchers now plan to simplify the synthesis process, since less pure substances are also suitable as lubricants,. “We hope to be able to market a liquid crystal lubricant in three to five years’ time,” says Kailer.

Dr. rer. nat. Andreas Kailer | alfa
Further information:
http://www.fraunhofer.de/EN/bigimg/2008/rn11fo6g.jsp
http://www.fraunhofer.de/EN/press/pi/2008/11/ResearchNews112008Topic6.jsp

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Serendipity uncovers borophene's potential
23.02.2017 | Northwestern University

nachricht Switched-on DNA
20.02.2017 | Arizona State University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>