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BASF 2016 science competition seeks synthetic lubricant solutions for future high-efficiency vehicles

BASF has kicked off its second annual North American Science Competition. This year’s competition focuses on chemistries that can be used to develop a synthetic fluid to meet the needs of future high-performance, high-efficiency engines and transmissions.

With more advanced machinery, lubricating and functional fluids represent a steadily growing industry projected to reach $11 billion by 2020. Synthetic fluids, which are more expensive than petroleum-derived materials, address increasing market demands for higher quality and purity, increased performance and more stringent environmental standards. By developing high performing synthetic fluids with better thermal stability, BASF aims to extend the life cycle of these materials, reduce waste and support the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Natural mineral oils possess very high traction, but very poor thermal stability. Synthetic fluids, such as poylol esters (POE), poly-alpha-olefins (PAO), polyalkylene glycols (PAG) or alkylated aromatics (AKB) possess very good thermal stability, but very low traction.

The challenge is to create a new synthetic lubricant that has the high traction or pressure-viscosity properties of a natural mineral oil lubricant to prevent wear, while maintaining the thermal stability of a synthetic lubricant in a cost effective manner. Specific challenges posed by BASF include:

  • How might we develop a synthetic lubricant that possess a 4-6 cSt viscosity at 100 ˚C with a viscosity index of < 100 and more preferably < 50?

  • How might we develop a synthetic fluid that has a pour point < -30 ˚C and a high temperature thermal stability that is superior to a typical Group II or Group III mineral oil lubricant?

  • How might we improve traction of the new synthetic lubricant by at least 20-30% compared to traditional commercial synthetic lubricants?

  • How might we utilize the synthetic fluid’s structure and molecular weight distribution to achieve desired performance with regards to traction and thermal stability?

The competition is open to teams consisting of two to four Ph.D. students and young researchers in the US and Canada (excluding Québec).

BASF will evaluate all qualified proposal submissions for their novelty, scientific and business merit and technical feasibility. Up to 5 teams will be selected as finalists to develop a proof of concept and to pitch their proposal to the judging panel. The evaluation of the proposals will be based on the following criteria:

  • Meeting Challenge requirements
  • Demonstrating novelty and originality
  • Indicating technical feasibility and business fit
  • Communicating the relevance to the challenge statement and value created by the proposed solution
  • Showing team work, collaborative nature of the project and diversity of team make-up
  • Creating economic and environmental impact by the potential application

Proposals are being accepted until 9 May 2016. All finalists will receive cash awards and the opportunity to present their proof-of-concept to BASF executives 3-4 August at the BASF Research and Development location in Tarrytown, NY.


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