This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Machine Lubricant
by Michael Keller
Gears, actuators and whirring machine parts are all around us. The modern automobile alone can have upwards of 50 electric motors—from electric windshield wipers to alternators—whose guts include pieces of metal rubbing against other parts.
The only thing that keeps these components from grinding away into powder is a liquid lubricant, a substance typically made of a petroleum-derived base oil mixed with additives that reduce friction between moving parts.
Now researchers in Germany say they have made a breakthrough in developing the next generation of lubricants. Their new liquid formulation, they say, lets small gears run with virtually no friction. The source of this wear-reducing elixir? The liquid crystals inside your computer and TV screen.