Vegetable oil is a good lubricant

Bio lubricates better

The test stand from Fuchs Petrolub in Mannheim is not for sensitive ears. A cabinet-sized box made of plexiglass in which the broomstick-thick drive shaft of a car is being revved up. The company makes lubricants, and this test is about how long a ball bearing grease can hold on to the joint that transmits driving forces to the wheels. There are hundreds of lubricating oils and greases on the market, from bicycle oil to screw protection paste. Among them, says developer Rolf Luther, also bio-lubricants.

"It is assumed that we have around four to five percent bio-lubricants in the sense of being easily degradable and even less that on a renewable basis."

That doesn't sound like a lot, but the developers are proud of this part. However, pure rapeseed or sunflower oil cannot be used as a bio-lubricant. They are biodegradable and also very effectively reduce friction, especially between metals. The only problem with this: vegetable oils lose this property pretty quickly.

"Everyone knows that at home it is wise to store cooking oil in dark bottles. There is good reason for this, because light already promotes aging, and temperature always promotes aging. All of these things cause oils to age, what a technical one Application would be very bad. "

Vegetable oils, on the other hand, are good for the environmental balance, because renewable raw materials are climate-neutral and conserve petroleum resources. And biodegradability is required wherever lubricating grease can get into the soil - for example in agriculture or mining. This is why chemists are looking for ways to make vegetable oils last longer. What arises in the retort is no longer oil or fat in the language of chemists; experts speak of synthetic esters. At full load, the test bench shows that, with many high-performance lubricants, "bio" is not only good for the environment.

"Synthetic esters, especially those made from renewable raw materials, improve the performance of conventional lubricants in terms of friction and wear. Then they lead to lower evaporation losses. This is also important in many applications: in metalworking, in motor - motor oil becomes a lot hot, and an oil that evaporates less also has advantages in terms of emissions overall. So in these areas such additives have technical advantages. "

According to experts, 90 percent of lubricants could be produced as organic products based on synthetic esters. Today, however, the modified vegetable oils are often only additives and serve to improve the technical properties. Because they are significantly more expensive than the raw materials from petroleum. A biodegradable motor oil made entirely from renewable raw materials costs around twice as much as a conventional product. Rolf Luther observed that the origin of the raw materials has so far only played a subordinate role for customers

"But on the other hand, there are also requests for pure bio-lubricants that are extremely easily degradable: in agriculture or in the quarry. Of course, performance is important, but money is really spent on good environmental compatibility."