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New "Nanolube" Could Cut Engine Friction by Half

An article from Popular Science talks about adding nanoparticles to engine oil to reduce wear and friction. http://www…-more-half

Well, I’ve read many articles about ‘exciting new technologies’ in Pop Sci, starting for me in about 1965. Very few of them come to pass. But I hope it’s true!

And what’s the difference between a ‘polymer nanoparticle’ and a very small piece of polymer? No description given about what’s causing the improvement.

A little more info. from a link that was in the article: “Dr Liu’s team prepared miniscule polymer particles that were only tens of nanometers in size. These particles were then dispersed in automobile engine base oils. When tested under metal surface contact conditions that simulated conditions found in automobile engines, these tiny particles were discovered to have an unprecedented friction reduction capability.”

I imagine they are careful not to disclose too much about it.

And of course, BETTER will be CHEAPER…
Right ??

Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Mechanics Illustrated have been my friends and presented me with so much entertaining reading through out the years but I must agree, many ideas they report on do not become reality, still interesting reading. Smokey Yunick’s column was one of my favorites. As a teenager I simply devoured these magazines.

Here’s My Question: Half Of What ? How Much Friction Is There Now ? Friction Causes Heat And Wear, Right ? I Have Engines With Rings And Bearings That Last 300,000 + Miles.

How much is half of practically nothing ?

Is reducing friction by half really necessary ? Is it a problem ? Sure, it’s best to have little friction for better MPG, less wear, etcetera, but my cars rust out before the engines wear out.

Now, if those nanoparticles could do something about body corrosion . . .


How much is half of practically nothing ?

Trick question? It’s still half.

How much is half of practically nothing multiplied times 100 million? It’s not about you alone, it’s about the savings multiplied times the number of running engines all around the world everyday. That’s when a miniscule amount from one becomes significant. Remember the guy who developed the scheme to skim the fractional pennies off of every transaction? No one noticed their individual losses but when it was all collected up into one account, it was millions of dollars…

Necessary? No, but if you can improve on what you have why wouldn’t you? Think of all the other applications beside automobiles this might benefit too. Industrial engines, pumps, etc. that run 24/7 sometimes would be just one example of many that could benefit. Of course cost would have to come into play as with everything.
Great idea about the “nanos” for corrosion too! Imagine getting protection into the very tiniest of areas that rustproofing and undercoats can’t get into now.

I Guess I Should Qualify My Question. At What Cost ? I Need To Know More About This Additive. Is It Expensive ? Does It Have Any Negatives Or Trade-Offs ? How Is It Produced ?

I understand what you’re saying and I considered that when I asked my question. Obviously, just a small increase in MPG times all users of vehicles, would be dramatic.

My question, now qualified, is “Half Of What . . . And At What Cost (Monetary And Other Considerations) . . . And Is It Worth Doing ?”


I just thought of something,if you apply this stuff to the body panels does it reduce aerodynamic drag? now that would be a savings.

“When tested under metal surface contact conditions that simulated conditions found in automobile engines”…what exactly does this mean? Metal to metal friction at room ambient?

Polymerized tetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, teflon) has the lowest coefficient of friction of any solid known to man. And it has many great applications. I used to use a 100% teflon grease to lube my bike cables. But it does not stand up to the environment of an automobile engine.

I’m sure this is an advance in lubricant technology. But whether it has applications for cars may be some time in the proving.

I’m a skeptic when ‘nano’ is tossed around, along with major claims and no explanation. We’ll see…

This does seem like a great scientific advance, even if it is likely to produce little result for the typical driver.
Be that as it may, I am going to make a prediction that I am very confident will prove to be true:

Watch for ads and infomercials on late-night TV claiming that the advertiser’s new product utilizes Nanotechnology in order to make your engine last forever. The charlatans who peddle snake oil on late-night TV are very quick to adapt buzz-words and words that sound like scientific terms, even though their products are just the same old snake oil.

So–remember that you heard it here first folks–bogus “nanolube” products will be the new Slick 50, huge numbers of people will waste their money on these bogus products, and we will be inundated with questions along the lines of, “Is Super Nano Oil 5000 worth the $32 per quart that they are charging for it?”

"My question, now qualified, is “Half Of What . . . And At What Cost (Monetary And Other Considerations) . . . And Is It Worth Doing ?”

That’s a very definite maybe. It depends on whether the nanoparticles can be produced in large enough numbers and therefore low enough cost to be a cost effective additive to motor oil. They will probably start out in high performance vehicles, like race cars, where an extra couple hundred bucks is no big deal; maybe the military. Just because they can be made and controlled in the lab is no guarantee that huge quantities can be made and controlled. By controlled, I mean that they remain as those near-atom sized particles. Small particles can stick together and form larger ones. I hope it works.

Only if the air can be compressed like the oil is between the rings and cylinders. I know you’re joking, oldschool, but that’s what it would take.

I’ll agree with that prediction. And I (with a bit of laughter) recall Slick 50 and the problems they had with Dupont, who owned the name “teflon”.

The truth is that nanotechnology will come at us fast in lots of forms. Especially electronics. NOVA had a great special called “Making things smaller” (I think) on PBS recently, hosted by Neal DeGrasse-Tyson. Excellent show. They can now make in the lab circuits one atom wide and one atom thick. And carbon nanotubes are the strongest known material now. Nanocircuits will, no doubt, soon be commonplace, as will carbon nanotubes.

Won’t a moving car simulate this compression? I can see the newest hypremiler fad,greasing the outside of your car.

What if we found a way to make a million cars each 100 pounds lighter or did some serious wind tunnel testing, that is, letting low aerodynamic drag determine how a car is styled instead of just using the wind tunnel to make sure the car is stable at high speeds.
I bet that would save way more energy than cutting the almost negligable friction losses of an engine in half.

Some motorcycle engines actually have ball/roller bearing crankshafts and connecting rods. They seem to get about the same gas mileage as the ones with conventional journal bearings get.

Show me the money ! I don’t doubt for an instance that this technology exist. What I do doubt is the usefullness unless the cost is reasonable. It will be in time, but friction wear is always only half the battle and removing contaminates is the other half. Maybe a life time lubricant, but filter(s) you still have to change regularly.

The ICE has a limited life expectancy for many uses that an electric motor will work w/o oil changes. Besides, motors often outlast the rest of the car with many makes. Why prolong the agony of not having a reason to change colors ?

I don’t think that the compression is enough to make a difference. And the car is likely not moving fast enough to make it worthwhile. But there is interest in putting little bumps on aircraft skin to disrupt air flow and reduce drag. The nanoparticles would not work because they are too small.