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Evaluating Nanodiamond Oil Additives to Improve Fuel Efficiency for Older Vehicles

Company Name: Cool-X, LLC
Program Office: Vehicles
Location: Amherst, MA
Email: David Leith, President;
Award Amount ($): $100,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Drivers know that regular oil changes are critical for keeping engines running efficiently. But even when car owners are careful about maintenance, engine gunk inevitably builds up, including ash, carbon deposits, varnish, and oxidation layers, which all increase friction and wear.

Traditional oil additives create coatings inside engines that reduce friction, but these coatings do little to prevent build-ups of "gunk". Cool-X is developing an alternative engine oil treatment that would use nanodiamonds and similar nano-particles to clean engines from the inside, removing gunk, polishing surfaces, reducing friction and wear, and increasing fuel efficiency.

If successful, this technology would be a low-cost means to improve fuel efficiency for the 200 million older vehicles in the United States with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. However, the tribology of nano-particles — meaning the ways in which these particles effect friction, lubrication and wear — is poorly understood. Hard nano-particles like nanodiamonds are believed to act as nano-scale abrasives and to polish friction surfaces. This abrasion reduces surface roughness and lowers boundary friction. This project aims to quantify and study how nano-particles change the topography of friction surfaces and their effect on lubrication, particularly on used engine parts.

The company faces three challenges to commercialize its technology: difficulty in conducting tests to measure fuel economy impact, particularly long-term, gradual effects such as polishing; consumer's skepticism of oil additive technologies and limited product knowledge; and costs associated with American Petroleum Institute certification and validation. Working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory on bench-scale testing can demonstrate the effect of nanodiamonds on friction and wear on diesel engine cylinder linings and rings, speeding the technology's potential path to commercialization.


This testing will look at both short-term and long-term changes in the surface topography and composition of the friction surfaces. If successful, such testing can demonstrate and validate the potential of the nanodiamond additives for a new generation of lubricants. In addition to other benefits, the technology is also thought to improve heat transfer and engine cooling.


The technology could improve fuel economy three to five percent for older vehicles, a significant boost that would save drivers money on fuel costs. Additionally, reboring cylinders or replacing piston rings is very costly and Cool-X technology may provide a very low-cost alternative for cleaning the inside of an engine, which should extend engine and vehicle life.

The technology extends oil life by lowering engine oil temperatures. Reduced oil use results in fewer on-road emissions as well as less pollution from drilling, refining and transporting oil. It also reduces heat-trapping emissions that cause climate change. High-performance oil additives are also required to meet national fuel efficiency goals.

When the United States reduces its oil dependence, the country becomes more insulated from global oil prices and more energy independent.

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