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ESR Technology and Partners to Develop Ionic Liquids for Vacuum Fluid Lubricants

6th September 2023

ESR Technology is delighted to announce the kickoff of a project to develop new vacuum fluid lubricants based upon ionic liquids. This collaborative effort, funded by the European Space Agency, aims to develop highly durable and environmentally responsible IL-based lubricants, designed to outperform existing commercially available options, such as perfluoropolyether (PFPE) and multiple alkylated cyclopentane (MAC) lubricants.

Ionic Liquids (ILs) are fluids consisting of organic salts, known for their extremely low vapour pressures, and a high resistance against temperature and thermo-oxidation. Various publications and past work, including those previously performed by ESR Technology, have also outlined their outstanding tribological properties under vacuum. Taken together, these strengths support ILs as ideal candidates for highly durable and low-outgassing lubricant formulations of the future.

The project carries with it an additional advantage: the potential to create PFAS-free lubricants. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have long been a concern due to their environmental persistence and potential health risks, and the upcoming EU regulations on the use of these materials may have a significant impact on the availability of several of the current generation of vacuum lubricants. The development of PFAS-free lubricants underscores a commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability, aligning with global efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of industrial processes.

Together with our partners Materiales GmbH (providing project management and formulation development) and IPM (specialists in electrochemical corrosion analysis), ESR Technology will provide our comprehensive understanding of lubricant behaviours in the harsh environment of vacuum, and specialist tribological assessments of the developed fluids.

For more information, either on this subject or more generally on how the European Space Tribology Laboratory (ESTL) can help you with your vacuum tribology concerns, please contact ESTL Manager Mr. Simon Lewis, or Principal Project Scientist Dr Michael Buttery.