Used to reduce friction between two parts as well as to transfer energy, biodegradable lubricants are environmentally-friendly lubricants since they are derived from plant and animal based sources. Biodegradable lubricants also provide high corrosion and wear resistance by offering high thermal and oxidative stability.
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Applications of Biodegradable Lubricants
As a less toxic alternative to traditional lubricants, biodegradable lubricants are becoming increasingly popular in industries such as food processing, industrial manufacturing, agriculture, automotive, wastewater, aerospace, commercial, marine, and defense. Naturally more viscous and having a higher lubricity than conventional petroleum-based lubricants, biodegradable lubricants are often used in applications such as industrial hydraulic fluids, gear lubes, conditioning firearms, bearing greases, transmission line cooling fluids, and machinery greases. Also referred to as bio-based lubricants, biodegradable lubricants have been developed by a fairly new technology that is increasing in momentum due to intensified funding for research and increased desire for green alternatives in reaction to warnings of “global warming.” Furthermore, biodegradable lubricants decrease foreign dependency on petroleum and provide a renewable lubricant source that is healthy for our environment.
How Biodegradable Lubricants Work
Biodegradable lubricants are typically vegetable-oil based. Although vegetable oils can be used naturally, they do not have a high enough oxidative stability for safe usage as a lubricant. As a result, chemical modification has been practiced and the addition of antioxidants to stabilize vegetable oils, but this process can be costly. Scientists have engineered genetically-enhanced soybean seeds that provide increased oxidative and viscosity stability and do not require additives or modification as a less-expensive alternative. In addition, to use in industrial lubricants, genetically-enhanced soybean seeds also have many health benefits and are particularly advantageous in the pharmaceutical industry. The standard vegetable-base oils that are used for biodegradable lubricants include canola oil, sunflower, soybean, and rapeseed. For U.S purposes, soybean-based lubricants have the most advantages because soybeans are home-grown and have an established infrastructure that provides increased economy, quality, and quantity compared to the alternatives. Strictly regulated by the FDA, biodegradable lubricants allow for safe contact between individuals and the lubricant or the machine or product in contact with the lubricant.