Engine efficiency will increase with the introduction of self healing polymers that are suitable to add to lubricants as they could maintain the physical properties of engine oils for longer.
Polymers are often added to automotive oils to control important physical properties such as viscosity but mechanical and thermal stress can break the polymers decreasing the efficiency and how they affect the oils properties. The research team, led by Professor David Haddleton, of the University of Warwick has now designed a self-healing, star-shaped polymer for use as a viscosity modifier. The methacrylate polymer has vulnerable long arms which be broken off if stressed reducing performance. The research team found they could add a particular chemical combination to the polymer's backbone which, almost like a starfish, which allow broken arms to reform via a "Diels Alder cycloaddition reaction" in a self healing reaction.
The research team now plans to 'optimise the chemistry before passing it on to our industrial collaborators, Lubrizol, for development in automotive lubricant applications,' says Professor Haddleton.