Soon to be a
picture from the past - NanoLub spheres can roll over one another - like
miniature ball bearings - staying cooler and maintaining their function
Return to Alt-Fuels
Imagine buying a new car and driving it for 10 years without once taking
it for an oil-and-lube job. The engine won't even have a dipstick to check
the oil. That's what the future holds if Rehovot-based ApNano Materials succeeds
in marketing NanoLub.
NanoLub is the world's first synthetic lubricant to be based on spherical
inorganic nanoparticles. As with other lubricants, its job is to reduce wear
and friction between moving objects (like engine parts), enabling longer
operation and higher efficiency. NanoLub dramatically outperforms every known
commercial solid lubricant marketed today.
As its creator, ApNano Materials has just been selected by the US investing
Herring as one of the
top 100 innovators that will drive global markets in 2005.
Red Herring's selection is among the most prestigious awards bestowed
today. It follows earlier recognition by the US business research firm
InnovationWORLD (ApNano was listed among its InnovationWORLD 21 companies
in October.) Israel's business daily TheMarker has also recently
recognized ApNano's achievements, dubbing CEO Menachem Genut as one of Israel's
most promising entrepreneurs.
Niles Fleischer, ApNano's VP of Business Development, said that the Red
Herring award is especially valuable and timely. "This confirms our
international standing in the eyes of both existing and potential customers
and produces the visibility that many of them need to do business with us,"
he told ISRAEL21c.
"We also see that some venture capital firms are revisiting their investment
plans and their views concerning our company."
The search for a perfect lubricant - that is, one that never requires replacement
- is an old one. In the last century, synthetic additives extended the
effectiveness of age-old lubricants like oil. ApNano's product is the result
of the pioneering research performed by Professor Reshef Tenne, ApNano CEO
Genut and others in the Department of Materials and Interfaces at the Weizmann
Institute of Science.
The advantage of NanoLub over existing solid lubricants is expressed in its
description, "spherical inorganic nanoparticles." NanoLub spheres can roll
over one another - like miniature ball bearings - staying cooler and maintaining
their function longer. Their nanometer scale enables them to find their way
into tinier places and reduces their agglomeration, resulting in dramatically
increased coverage, even on rough surfaces. Finally, as inorganic material,
NanoLub performs beautifully even in extremely harsh environments.
NanoLub has even been shown to improve lubrication efficiency for
roughly-finished parts and surfaces, so that manufacturers can spend less
time and money machining their parts. On the environmental side, using NanoLub
reduces energy consumption and can decrease air pollution. Finally, NanoLub
can be used as an additive, as an impregnated material, as a component in
polymer or metal composites, or simply by itself as a powder.
ApNano is testing NanoLub in numerous maintenance-free systems, including
aerospace, medical and marine industries, ultra-clean manufacturing environments,
and in heavy machinery such as power plant turbines.
But perhaps the most exciting prospect that arises from NanoLub is the
possibility that automotive engines can be sealed completely, without need
for an oil change - ever.
Considering that heat and wear are among the primary causes of engine and
transmission failure today, NanoLub may even raise the future reliability
of these components to that of today's semiconductor chips.
In some of the trials performed with NanoLub, testers were simply unable
to create enough friction in the lubricant to produce measurable damage -
even when trial durations were increased severely beyond specifications.
European automotive giant Volkswagen is already partnering with tiny ApNano
to develop synthetic lubricants for its high-end product line. The US synthetic
lubricant company Hatco Corporation has also signed up with ApNano to develop
nanoparticle-based lubricants for aviation, refrigeration and other high
Amid all the recent activities and awards, ApNano is now planning its first
semi-commercial facility, to be located in Israel. According to Fleischer,
the factory will enable production of about 220 pounds per day of NanoLub.
"We've already started to consult with a chemical engineering firm to plan
At mid-year, ApNano announced that it had succeeded in developing an improved
reactor that will shorten the time to production and significantly lower
the cost of making NanoLub in larger quantities.
Fleischer expects factory-level commercialization within three years, with
annual revenues of $100 million or more. That factory may be built in the
US or in Europe, Fleischer adds. Especially with the recent awards, "we've
got lots of people running after us to build our factory in their regions."
Some see NanoLub as an upstart in the well-established lubricants industry.
According to one research firm, extreme pressure/anti-wear additives make
up only about $1 billion in annual revenues globally, as compared to $37
billion for the broader lubricants market.
But if NanoLub succeeds, the market could grow significantly and force larger
producers like Shell, ExxonMobile and ChevronTexaco to develop more competitive
Another element of NanoLub's market appeal is that it provides a 'greener'
alternative to many existing lubricants. Environmental concerns are a growing
concern for big producers. "With all the green market trends - the demands
of environmentalists, the need to extend fuel mileage - there is a need to
look for alternatives, and our process is green and environmentally friendly.
We're bringing them a very painless way to make the change."
Regarding competition, Fleisher noted that last week ApNano executives met
with five separate companies. "Almost without exception, these companies
spoke of being approached with other solutions based on nanomaterials, but
that NanoLub is the only product they have seen that meets their criteria."
CEO Genut has stated that NanoLub's cost will be competitive with existing
high performance synthetic lubricants.