FUCHS is already researching tomorrow's solutions
The technical and regulatory requirements of lubricants, such as the REACH legislation, are set to become stricter. This will lead to a growing need for high-performance lubricants with increasing product specialization and individualization.
New high-performance materials, such as plastics, coated materials or titanium and aluminum alloys that are used in the aerospace and medical engineering sectors require innovative processing fluids with new properties. In the automotive field, the increasingly powerful engines are placing ever greater loads on transmissions and higher demands on the oil used. The central challenges in the sector – lightweight construction, fuel savings and the increase in electric motors – require innovative fluids and greases.
The urgency of socially and environmentally relevant topics, such as climate change or scarcity of resources, demands new approaches within the added value chain. Keywords include CO2 reduction, energy efficiency, fuel efficiency, regenerative resources and recycling. FUCHS is facing up to these challenges.
FUCHS engages in intensive research together with numerous partners
Medium-chain fatty acids are used in numerous FUCHS products: esters on this basis represent good cold and aging properties and impress with their "closeness to nature" - in other words, their use also contributes to cost-effective production. The disadvantage: European, sustainable sources of these special fatty acids are rare. Today, caproic, caprylic and capric acid (the so-called goat oils, from Latin Capra = goat) are mainly obtained from palm kernel oil, which is imported from the tropics. FUCHS, therefore, did not hesitate to participate in the project "Bio-based capric and caprylic acid - production, purification, marketing strategy - CapAcidy" financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which was successfully completed in mid-2019.
The Biogas Innovation Award 2019, endowed with 10,000 euros, was awarded to Maria Braune from the German Biomass Research Centre and Dr. Heike Sträuber from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research for the process they developed to produce medium-chain fatty acids from the fermentation substrate of biogas plants. A real win-win situation: on the one hand, the plant operators receive new customers and can market their products better, and on the other hand, the chemical industry can use regional, renewable raw materials for its production. Now that the project has been completed, FUCHS is testing the application possibilities in the company in its role as an industrial partner, focusing above all on the further development of the technical process, but also on specifying the fatty acids generated.
"PHAt"[fɛt:] is an interdisciplinary research project of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with the objective of investigating new bio-based and biodegradable raw materials for use in lubricating greases and solid film lubricants.
The project, in which three other partners besides FUCHS are involved, focuses on the development of environmentally friendly thickeners and binders.
To achieve this goal, the project partners are investigating whether the biobased and biodegradable polymers called "polyhydroxyalkanoates" (abbreviated as PHA) are suitable as thickeners and binders.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates are naturally produced by microorganisms. The PHAs are first isolated from the microorganisms and then modified for improved product properties.
The new biogenic raw materials should be temperature and oxygen stable in lubricating greases and solid film lubricants and should have optimum product properties without impairing the biodegradability of the product.
This makes them ideal for use in environmentally sensitive areas such as agriculture, forestry and energy industry.
The "Pegasus" project of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology is a joint research project launched in 2009 to increase energy efficiency in the passenger vehicle drive train (motor, transmission, bearings). Ten companies and institutes are researching material and lubricant solutions that promote fuel consumption savings.
In the BMBF research initiative "Zero Carbon Footprint", the recycling of carbon-rich waste streams is being investigated for production of functional biomass. The project aims to generate reusable materials from waste. The keyword here is waste-to-value. The carbon contained in industrial waste water, sewage sludge and flue gas is to be converted into valuable building blocks for industrial production through microorganisms that use the waste as substrates. For FUCHS, the focus of research activities lies in the field of functional base oils and additives. Complex molecules are to be gained through enzymatic modification for use as base fluids or additives.
The research alliance "Technofunctional Proteins" of the BMBF is researching the structure-function relationships of vegetable proteins that are not suitable for food and fodder production. The project is dedicated to the use of modified proteins as additives within the scope of lubricant manufacture. Proteins of this kind can be gained from agricultural waste materials.
Electric mobility also requires lubricants. The increased use of electric motors to drive individual mobility and their further development are placing new requirements on lubricants. Even if no conventional engine oils are used, electric vehicles and in particular those with high power densities still require both lubrication (for rolling bearings and transmissions) and cooling. Electric drives in automobiles therefore require new approaches, not only in an attempt to comply with specific requirements, but also to improve the overall system with new solutions. One way in which FUCHS addresses these questions is in the ongoing EU project entitled "Optimized Electric Drivetrain by Integration (ODIN)". Robert BOSCH GmbH is the coordinator of this project, and FUCHS is the lubricant partner.