ILMA Compoundings June 2019 - 24

Great Graphene
Its potential is still being realized, but science and industry
believe graphene holds promise in lubricants
By M. Diane McCormick

Y

ou're entering another
dimension. More accurately,
you're entering the minusone dimension of graphene - the
two-dimensional, improbably stable,
remarkably multifaceted nanomaterial
poised to revolutionize lubricants
and grease.
The challenge, at this early phase,
is sorting out reality from hype
and resolving technical obstacles to
graphene's use in oils. "What we call
graphene in academia is not the same
thing that thousands of suppliers on
the internet are calling graphene and
selling as black powder," said National
Graphene Association (NGA) Executive Director Zina Jarrahi Cinker. "It's
very confusing."
In research labs and conference
rooms, efforts are underway to
uncover the full potential of graphene
and to agree on uniform standards
that assure quality at every phase for
every customer.

24

JUNE 2019

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

WHAT IS GRAPHENE?
The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics
went to University of Manchester
researchers who used a piece of Scotch
tape to lift a carbon flake just one
atom thick from ordinary graphite.
Their discovery proving the stability
of this single-atom material known as
graphene opened worlds of research.
Graphene derives from graphite
extracted from mines around the
world. At the time the Nobel was
awarded, graphene was the thinnest,
strongest material known - a star
conductor of heat and electricity,
transparent but so dense that not even
a tiny helium atom can pass through.
Argonne National Laboratory
researchers Dr. Anirudha V. Sumant
and Dr. Ali Erdemir decided around
2011 to study graphene's wear, friction
and lubrication properties. The initial
results from standard steel-on-steel
testing left them stunned. "Just

by introducing a few layers of this
graphene material, we were able to
see that the friction went down by
five to six times, and most important,
the wear reduced by 1,000 to 10,000
times," said Sumant. "That was kind
of a wow moment for us."
As Erdemir put it, "Graphene
is certainly a very different type of
animal than its parent, which is the
graphite. The most intriguing part is
its [similarity] in structure to graphite, yet [it provides] hundreds if not
thousands of times better friction and
wear properties. That's something we
can't yet clearly understand."
Delving deeper, the researchers combined graphene with nanodiamonds,
another carbon material, and found
high corrosion resistance and a coefficient of friction near zero - achieving
the quality known as superlubricity -
that was sustainable for long periods.
"That was a real breakthrough," said
Sumant. "Nobody previously had seen


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ILMA Compoundings June 2019

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