Design of Novel Petroleum Free Metalworking Fluids

EPA Grant Number: R831457
Title: Design of Novel Petroleum Free Metalworking Fluids
Investigators: Hayes, Kim F. , Skerlos, Steven J.
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $325,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (2003) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


The machining of metal is essential to modern society, and consequently the metalworking industry is one of the largest in the United States. Integral to this industry are metalworking fluids (MWFs) that serve as coolants, lubricants, and corrosion inhibitors. In Y2000, over 2 billion gallons of MWFs were sold, and presumably disposed, in the U.S. The primary components of typical MWFs include water, oil, and emulsifiers, with up to eight additional additives providing supplemental performance characteristics such as bio-stability, extreme pressure lubrication, and hard water stability through the use of chelating agents. These MWF formulations have traditionally been based on a petroleum feedstock, raising concerns about environmental degradation and toxic substance release to the environment throughout the life cycle. Moreover, there are increasing concerns regarding the mounting costs as well as the diplomatic and military support necessary to sustain the current level of domestic petroleum consumption. These undesirable characteristics have led to increased research and development of petroleum-free, bio-based MWFs. A bio-based feedstock offers a renewable MWF formulation base with the potential for improved machining performance. This has increased interest in developing bio-based feedstocks as a way of meeting the increasingly stringent MWF disposal limits currently being considered by federal governments and the international community. Consequently, the objective of this research is to design 100% petroleum-free metalworking fluids with equal or greater performance when compared with traditional metalworking fluids.


To date, little fundamental research has been directed towards describing and quantifying relationships between the physicochemical properties of vegetable-based lubricants and surfactants and MWF performance. Based on the need for design-oriented knowledge that would permit environmentally conscious end-users of MWF to take a more proactive role in utilizing novel bio-based MWF formulations, this research has the following objectives:

1. investigate emulsification characteristics of vegetable-based oils using petroleum-free surfactants;
2. develop fundamental knowledge related to surface activity and tribological characteristics of petroleum-free surfactants and extreme pressure (EP) additives;
3. develop high-performance "green" MWF formulations using vegetable-based oils and environmentally benign EP enhancing additives; and
4. perform a comparative environmental and economic life cycle assessment between high performance traditional MWFs, and novel petroleum-free MWFs developed as an outcome of this research.

Expected Results:

At the conclusion of this proposed research, it is expected that six tasks will have been accomplished:

1. the development of a machining testbed capable of capturing realistic MWF performance information while generating samples amenable to advanced molecular surface analysis techniques;
2. the design of stable, 100% vegetable-derived metalworking fluid base formulations using multiple base oil stocks;
3. the evaluation of emulsion and extreme pressure additive effectiveness in machining operations for vegetable-oil based formulations developed during this research;
4. an understanding of the relationship between surface activity of extreme pressure additives and MWF performance;
5. the design a working vegetable oil MWF with equivalent performance to existing MWFs; and
6. the comparative cost and environmental life cycle assessment between traditional petroleum-based and novel vegetable-based metalworking fluids.

Broader Impact: By generating the theoretical basis necessary to design environmentally benign MWFs, this project will provide a direct benefit to the metals manufacturing industry which represents a greater than $1 billion sector of the United States economy and consumes over two billion gallons of MWF each year. The research will provide a fundamental understanding of the structural and functional relationships of chemical components in MWF formulations that are relevant to superior performance and benign environmental characteristics. It will also improve the state-of-the-art of fundamental knowledge in the areas of MWF emulsion stability and EP additive performance. The outcomes of this research will provide a molecular-, micro-, and macro-scale understanding of the relationship between MWF component properties, fluid performance, and longevity. This will result in MWFs with optimal performance properties that minimize hazardo

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 22 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

pollution prevention, green chemistry, life-cycle analysis, waste reduction, waste minimization, environmentally conscious manufacturing, metal fabricated products industry, engineering., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, Chemicals Management, pollution prevention, life cycle analysis, vegetable based surfactants, cleaner production, clean technology, alternative materials, metal finishing, machining, life cycle assessment, environmentally benign waste lubricant, alternative metal finishing, vegetable based lubricants, petroleum free metalworking fluids

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • Final Report