In the Lab: Motor Oil, Clean Coal, Nanotech Water


Boric acid — the same stuff found in antiseptics, eye cleansers, and insecticides — might hold the key to reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are conducting microscopic experiments with boric acid that they say have the potential to improve motor oil efficiency by some four to five percent. [via]

When mixed with motor oil and added to fuel, boric acid acts as a lubricant, which the scientists have shown reduces the amount of energy lost through friction in car engines by as much as two-thirds. We called Ali Erbemir, the lead scientist on the research, and he told us that “by reducing friction we are saving maybe thousands of barrels of petroleum each day.”

Here’s a look at what else is going on this week in university and government research:

Pulp and paper plants could operate at lower energy levels in the future, thanks to research developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Swagelok Company of Solon, Ohio. The team uses “supersaturated steel” in factory pump impellers, which makes these impellers more efficient, with an annual energy savings of 56 million BTUs (British Thermal Units).

Clean-coal projects at Ohio universities have received $1.99 million in funding from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. Ohio State University received six grants valued at $799,960 for projects, two of which include partnerships with the University of Cincinnati and the University of Akron.

In a new “Trips to the NanoFrontier” podcast, U.C.L.A. scientist Dr. Eric Hoek describes his work using nanotechnology to help solve the global clean water shortage. His team developed a technology that he claims will reduce the cost and energy needed to desalinate seawater and clean wastewater.

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