In the chemicals industry, a significant part of non-renewable resources is used to produce lubricants. These are predominantly used to lubricate machine elements such as anti-friction bearings. The primary purpose of lubricants is to reduce the friction and energy losses, as well as to prevent the premature failure of machine elements due to wear. Lubricants that are currently available on the market are usually produced based on non-renewable resources. Only a small fraction of the market (around 5%) is covered by bio-based lubricants. In most cases, these lubricants are manufactured from renewable resources, such as based on ester oils. As lubricating greases consist of base oils and thickener systems, both components need to be based on renewable resources in order to produce virtually 100% bio-based greases. Conventional thickener systems, such as stearic acids in combination with 12-hydroxystearate, contain a high percentage of renewable resources but do not perform well at high temperatures. As a result, thickener systems that remain stable at high temperatures are currently exclusively produced from petrochemical compounds, such as polymer thickeners.
In order to find a substitute for petrochemical compounds based on renewable resources, the aim of the joint project “Bio-based, polymer thickener systems to produce lubricating greases for high temperature and lifetime applications – PolyBioFe” is to develop bio-based polymeric thickener systems. Bio-based base oils can be used to produce lubricants that manufactured entirely from renewable resources with the exception of the additive components. This project aims to develop these greases specifically for food and high-temperature applications (>150 °C) with a price and properties that can compete with establisher petrochemical high-performance lubricants on the market.
In this project, BECHEM is entrusted with the development of lubricating grease formulations and their adaptation to appropriate application procedures. Other partners in the project funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) are the Technical University Dortmund (synthesis of the thickener systems) as well as the RWTH Aachen University (qualification of lubricating greases for use in anti-friction bearings).