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Nanoparticles improve lubricant performance in friction and wear prevention

| By Scott Jenkins

Nanoscale materials have been added to engine lubricants to enhance performance for some time, but the use of such materials has been limited by their inability to remain suspended in the oils, and by their tendency to darken the color of the lubricant. Now, LSI Chemical (Mt. Gilead, Ohio; has developed a nanoparticle engine-lubricant additive that alleviates these issues, while providing improved anti-wear performance along with less friction.

LSI Chemical, which was spun off in August as a separate company from Lubrication Specialties Inc., has developed the NanoClear series of lubricant additive products for vehicle engines and industrial applications. Its lubricant additives are carbon nanoparticles that have a size range (3–8 nm) and polarity that allows them to act as “tiny ball bearings, filling in asperities of machined metal surfaces to decrease friction,” explains Todd Cawley, CEO of LSI Chemical (diagram).


Simultaneously, the nanoparticles decrease engine wear. “These carbon nanoparticles form links with the molecules of the lubricant to make it behave like higher-viscosity oil,” Cawley says, which improves wear performance. For example, the company found a 20% reduction in wear when the nanocarbon product was added to a brand-name synthetic 10W-30 motor oil.

To overcome the problem of nanoparticles settling out of oils, LSI developed a unique and proprietary ester compound that combines with the nanoparticles to keep them in suspension and retain the oil’s clear appearance for years. In contrast, ceramic nanoparticles settle out of solution in a few hours, Cawley says.

LSI Chemical offers a host of lubricant additive products and is developing others. The company now tests user’s lubricant samples to develop an additive package that is customized to the requirements of a particular lubricant type and application.