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New research may lead to an eco-friendly lubricant solution

2017-03-03

Work is about to commence to produce novel instrumentation that will allow researchers to study how the structure of thin films of biological lubricants is affected by pressure and movement. By increasing our knowledge of the solutions employed by nature, researchers hope to pave the way for the production of eco-friendly lubricants.

Nature’s own lubricants, such as saliva, synovial fluid and mucus, are water-based. To date, humans have not managed to produce efficient, eco-friendly, water-based lubricants. This is something researchers are hoping to remedy.                                                           

“We know that nature can create highly effective, water-based lubricants, but we still do not know how,” said Javier Sotres, a researcher at the Department of Biomedical Science and Biofilms – Research Center for Biointerfaces.                                                      

Biological lubricants under the microscope 

Javier SotresJavier Sotres is head of the international research project Scattering in Confined and Sheared Geometries, funded by the Swedish Research Council. The research is being conducted in collaboration with ESS in Lund, ISIS Neutron Source and Kent University.

“At present, we have no way of studying how the structure changes when a biological lubricant is exposed to both pressure and movement. The first step therefore will be to develop an instrument that will help us to do this,” said Sotres.

Benefit for both industry and the healthcare sector

The researchers will attach a thin film of biological lubricant, such as mucus, to the surface of a cell, which will make it possible to both press and move the surfaces of the mucus sample against each other.                           

“By injecting neutrons into the mucus sample, we can study changes in the structure as the sample is exposed to both pressure and movement. By doing so, we hope to increase our knowledge of ways in which we can develop effective, water-based lubricants.” Javier Sotres can foresee potential in many different areas in the future.                       

“We use lubricants in a whole host of processes and operations. A water-based lubricant is better for the environment and can be used in both industry and in the healthcare sector.” 

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist