Plasma lubricants slip into new markets

Lubricant technology first revealed in Eureka in 2001 is extending its range of commercial applications, thanks mainly to its ability to save energy. Lou Reade reports

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It's seven years since we heard from Peter Dryden, whose plasma lubricants offered a revolution in machine performance. Their ability to repair old, worn components in gearboxes, by laying down a highly lubricating 'shield', promised to extend machine life by around 25 per cent.

The products replace conventional lubricants. Each is specially formulated by Dryden's company, Hyralube, and is matched to a particular application.

In 2001, the focus of the article was the plasma's ability to extend machine life. Now with oil prices (and energy prices in general) soaring, it is their energy saving properties that are attracting attention. The reasoning is obvious: a machine that runs more efficiently with less friction, consumes less energy.

A number of companies, from industries including automotive and food processing, have used the lubricants and confirmed their effectiveness.

One, Brackley based Faccenda, processes 1.3m chickens every week. Not exactly a fund day out for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but the company was experiencing a grinding noise and high temperatures on a feather press gearbox. Hydralube discovered high levels of wear in the machine, and recommended the use of its 'red' plasma grade. After three weeks, the gearbox was back in a satisfactory condition.

"The electrical energy consumption was reduced by 14 per cent and temperatures were reduced to 5 to 10 degrees above ambient", said Colin Trotman, engineering manager at the plant.

A far larger project has begun at Veolia, a Dutch bus company that has a fleet of 50,000 vehicles. Hydralube's distributor, Axxon, has helped Veolia to retrofit a bus with a new filtration system and plasma lubricants, including synthetic engine oil. It fitted a Mercedes Citaro bus with Hydralube oils in the engine, gearbox and rear axle. It ended up using 20 per cent less diesel in a year, a saving of around 10,000 euros.

To prove his green credentials, Dryden - along with other 'energy saving' entrepreneurs - was recently invited to meet the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.

"He asked in-depth questions about electrical energy", says Dryden. "He had obviously been well briefed."

Dryden is positive about the energy saving aspect of his technology: he says the lubricants will soon be deployed for stationary engines - for generators - and in large delivery trucks "That pull 40 tonnes of cargo".

Dryden claims a general energy saving of 5 to 25 per cent in energy costs by using the technology, and has test results to back it up. With fuel bills continuing to rise, it seems that his technology is one whose time has come

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Written by Lou Reade

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