Argonne National Laboratory


Devices such as this unidirectional tester can assess the frictional properties of oils and additives.

Devices such as this unidirectional tester can assess the frictional properties of oils and additives.

Approximately 246 million light-duty vehicles and 11 million heavy-duty trucks travel on U.S. roads each year, consuming up to 13 million barrels of petroleum per day. Parasitic friction losses in the engine, driveline and accessories are responsible for 10 to 15 percent of this fuel consumption.  Reducing these losses by just 10 percent can reduce U.S. fuel consumption by 100,000 barrels of oil per day and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tonnes per day.

Argonne works with industry and academia to develop advanced lubrication approaches that integrate fuel-efficient lubricants, low-friction materials and coatings and engineered surfaces to improve fuel economy of legacy vehicles by 2 to 3 percent, and of future vehicles by 4 to 8 percent, while maintaining or improving durability, reliability and emissions characteristics. To accomplish these goals, Argonne researchers focus on:

  • Developing advanced lubricant additives and basefluids, lubricant-boosting materials and coatings;
  • Conducting mechanistic studies of tribo-film phenomena and mechanical properties; and
  • Correlating lubricant performance and engine/vehicle fuel economy.

Working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and industry, Argonne researchers have identified several major initiatives focusing on (1) the role of fluid rheology and asperity friction on parasitic losses in engines and driveline components and (2) the development of advanced additives and basefluids, detailed below.

  • AdditivesNanoadditives (functionalized nano-oxides and carbon-based compounds) that reduce asperity friction to enable use of low-viscosity rheological fluids, with a goal of reducing boundary friction by 50 percent or more.
  • BasefluidsNovel basefluids with enhanced rheological properties to minimize viscous shear losses, with a goal of enabling use of lubricants with up to 25 percent lower viscosities than today’s lubricants.
  • Engineered Surfaces Non-ferrous surfaces that promote formation of tribo-films with improved friction and wear performance, with a goal of reducing boundary friction by up to 50 percent.
  • Phenomenological Modeling Mechanistic-based models of tribo-film formation to correlate friction and wear performance with tribo-film structure and chemistry, specifically, asperity friction and scuffing correlations, with a goal of replacing today’s dated Edisonian approach to the development of additives with a more modern science-based mechanistic model.
  • Performance Validation Performance evaluation protocols to improve the of lab-scale techniques for reliable prediction of engine performance, with a goal to make greater use of rapid, cost-effective lab-scale rigs to reduce cost and time-to-market development of advanced lubricants.