How hBN Lubricant Additives Contribute to Greener Technologies

August 13th, 2021

Friction and wear are inherent to moving parts. One-fifth of the world’s total energy consumption goes into overcoming friction. The largest consumers of this energy are transportation, power generation, and manufacturing. While these sectors are vital for our society, the global commitment to fight climate change and achieve a carbon-neutral society by the year 2050 calls for innovative lubrication technologies to tackle friction. Within fifteen years, there is a potential of saving up to 40% of these energy losses arising from friction and wear, thereby significantly reducing the global carbon footprint. These savings equate to 1.4% of the annual global GDP.


Saint-Gobain’s Greener Tribological Solutions


At Saint-Gobain, we are committed to addressing this inherent problem by producing advanced tribological solutions for sustainable technologies. One such state-of-the-art technique is the use of anti-wear and anti-friction lubricant additives. Our hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) lubricant additives have set new standards as high-performance lubricants for green technologies.


hBN lubricant additives are hexagonal boron nitride powders that possess a lamellar structure like graphite. They can be combined with liquid lubricants, like mineral oil, to create a lubricating dispersion, or can be used as a dry solid lubricant. Boron nitride particles settle in the gaps between the sliding surfaces and reduce the coefficient of friction. hBN lubricant additives have a low coefficient of friction, possess excellent high-temperature stability, and remain lubricious at temperatures up to 1800°C under inert conditions. hBN lubricant additives are oxidation-resistant up to 900°C. The thermal conductivity of hBN lubricant additives is unmatched, making them highly effective for heat dissipation in applications involving fast-moving parts. Moreover, they are chemically inert, corrosion-resistant, non-toxic, and hence eco-friendly. This impressive set of characteristics makes hBN lubricant additives a preferred “green” tribological solution over the conventional solid lubricants such as graphite, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), or PTFE (Teflon) that fail under most extreme operating conditions. Besides, the conventional additives often contain environmental pollutants such as phosphorous, carbon, sulfur, and heavy metals.


Contribution of hBN Lubricant Additives to Greener Technologies


  • Wind power: The efficiency and durability of gears and other mechanical assemblies of wind turbines are strongly affected by common tribological issues such as spalling, wear, micro pitting, and scuffing. Inadequate lubrication and breakdown of the lubricating film under heavy load conditions can also lead to gearbox bearing failure. The unique blend of impressive properties makes the hBN lubricant additive a promising wear-resistant, energy-efficient solution for wind turbines. hBN stays well dispersed in oil and forms a stable tribo-film. The hBN particles reduce friction due to their low shear resistance and improve wear resistance by interacting with sliding surfaces and forming low-friction boundary films. On the atomic level, the layers of hBN are aligned along the direction of sliding motion, shearing easily to provide low friction levels. The high durability of hBN lubricant additives proves useful, especially for offshore wind turbine parks with limited accessibility where maintenance and changing lubricants routinely is a formidable task.
  • Electric Vehicles: By the year 2050, nearly every vehicle will be electrically powered. The higher stability of hBN lubricant additives makes them an excellent choice in the powertrain components (such as axle gearboxes) of EVs, where the lubricant undergoes severe load conditions due to the faster acceleration of EVs. The presence of high operating voltages in the gearbox poses another major challenge for lubricants. While controlling electric motors, frequent power switching occurs, which leads to static charge accumulation that discharges through bearings and gears. It is critical that the lubricant is electrically insulating to avoid short circuit risks. While graphite and sulfur in MoS2 are detrimental to electronic components, the high dielectric strength of hBN lubricant additives renders them a safe choice for EV technology without the risk of dielectric breakdown. Moreover, the finely dispersed particles in hBN lubricant additives form heat dispersion paths that enhance the thermal management in EVs.

Saint-Gobain’s highly durable hBN lubricant additives have set new standards with reduced lubricant usage, less frequency of lubrication, and reduced downtime of sustainable technologies, thereby substantially bringing down the total energy consumption and the associated carbon footprint.