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Enabling a New Generation of Lubricants for Better Gas Mileage and Performance

Company Name: Precision Polyolefins, LLC
Program Office: Vehicles
Location: College Park, MD
Email: Jonathan Reeds, VP of Manufacturing;
Award Amount: $180,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Argonne National Laboratory


Within the transportation industry, original-equipment manufacturers' performance specifications and government energy-efficiency regulations are driving a need for durable lubricants that enhance fuel economy and perform at low temperatures. But the capacity of existing lubricant technology to meet increasingly stringent requirements is constrained by the limited mechanical strength and thermal performance of polymeric additives used to formulate these lubricants. 

Precision Polyolefins' (PPL's) new synthetic lubricants contain unique extremely Narrow polydispersity PolyAlphaOlefin (nPAO) fluids with drastically improved mechanical stability and temperature response, which increases lubricant durability and performance at temperature extremes. While PPL has documented the promising physical characteristics of nPAO oils, the unprecedented nature of these materials necessitates extensive investigation of their mechanism of action and performance in lubricant applications in order to fully exploit their unique advantages. This kind of testing requires access to specialized tribological equipment, particularly wear and friction performance testing and film-formation analysis under extreme conditions.

This SBV Pilot will evaluate the wear, friction, and film-forming characteristics of nPAO oil formulations using the unique tribological test capabilities, analytical skills and expertise of personnel at Argonne National Laboratory. The project will determine the impact that oils of extremely narrow polymeric chain-length distributions have on lubricant performance. Test outcomes will facilitate the design and commercialization of a new generation of lubricants to meet current and future industry needs.


PPL utilizes proprietary catalyst technology to produce nPAO based lubricants — a revolutionary new class of polyalphaolefin synthetic lubricants that are expected to exhibit unrivalled performance and durability in extreme environments compared with existing commercially available synthetic lubricants. The superior performance that nPAO base stock fluids impart to finished lubricants is derived from their well-defined chemical structure, high purity and extremely narrow distribution of polymeric chain-lengths, which results in increased mechanical stability and improved fluidity at low temperatures with reduced volatility and viscosity loss at high temperatures.

The advantages of nPAO-based lubricants are likely to include improved performance at temperature extremes, extended drain-intervals, and improved fuel efficiency and driving range, particularly for heavy-duty vehicles in extreme environments. If this project is successful, nPAO-based lubricant technology will result in lower fuel and maintenance costs for operators of commercial and off-road vehicle fleets.


The results of this SBV Pilot will lead to the development and commercialization of the next generation of lubricants, enabling improved fuel economy of up to 0.5 percent relative to the state of the art that can meet current and future fuel economy targets for both legacy and future vehicle fleets. Enhanced fuel economy and extended lubricant drain intervals will provide significant economic advantages to consumers — particularly operators of commercial trucking fleets — through lower fuel and maintenance costs. 

This project will also serve to accelerate the design of nPAO-based synthetic lubricants for additional markets, including industrial oils, engine oils, and wind turbine gear oils, while also facilitating the engagement of strategic partners, customers, and investors for the pursuit of commercialization.

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