Biobased lubricants: harnessing the richness of agriculture resources
Yunus, Robiah (2015) Biobased lubricants: harnessing the richness of agriculture resources.
In Malaysia, the availability of diversified biomass feedstocks such as sugars, oils, protein, lignocellulosics, combined with numerous biochemical, thermo and chemical conversion technologies, offers a wealth of products that are useful in many applications. Target applications include polymer, lubricant, solvent, adhesive, herbicide, and pharmaceutical industries. Many of these industrial biobased products have already penetrated the markets, but improved technologies promise new products that can compete with fossil-based products in both cost and performance aspects. Among these markets, the biolubricant market represents an enormous potential for biobased products. Despite the increased popularity of the biobased or green products, the development of these products is a challenge because the sustainability aspect of these biobased chemicals is still being dispute. The possibility of achieving the environmental sustainability is questioned—considering the environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, and the pursuit of economic balance within the closed system. To tackle these issues effectively requires reverting to fundamental principles that govern the technologies that produce these chemicals. Are these technologies efficient and effective? (Developing technology that uses less energy produces less waste, and safer to environment). This is the paradigm shift of the early 21st century; innovating technologies for sustainable development. Ways of reducing negative impacts on human are also paramount which entails environmental-friendly engineering, environmental resources management and environmental protection.Lubricants which are both readily biodegradable and non-toxic to humans and environments are known as biobased lubricant or biolubricant. A biolubricant can be any plant oil or synthetic esters, which are derived from plant oils. In pursuit of environmentally friendly chemical engineering, various biolubricants from synthetic esters derived from agriculture resources have been developed using low-pressure technology. The technology enables product synthesis to take place at low temperature and pressure. In addition, the reaction time was markedly reduced and the product conversion was improved. Using the pulsed loop reactor, the methyl ester (biodiesel) can be produced in 10 minutes at 60°C and the polyol ester in 30 minutes. Similar loop reactor under vacuum condition was also used to produce various esters for biolubricants. Hydraulic fluid, metal working fluid, tapping oil, oven chain oil, and drilling fluid are among the biolubricants that are currently being developed for commercial purposes. Changing the starting materials for the synthesis allows us to tailor make the final ester for selected applications. Ester-based oil drilling fluid (or mud) has also been developed to address the increasing concern of the environmental consequences of using oil based mud (OBM) using the low-pressure technology. The ester-based mud is superior to the commercial ester, and the production cost is much lower due to the efficient technology. Incorporating graphene in the ester-based mud has further improved its performance. The ester-based mud enhanced with graphene has potential to be used for high temperature application above 450°F. Green transformer oil is another environmentally friendly product that is developed driven by the desire for a safer, non-flammable and environmentally acceptable insulating liquid for use in power equipment.
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