Synthetic Lubricants Derived from Plastic Waste and their Tribological Performance

Ryan A. Hackler, Kimaya Vyavhare, Robert M. Kennedy, Gokhan Celik, Uddhav Kanbur, Philip J. Griffin, Aaron D. Sadow, Guiyan Zang, Amgad Elgowainy, Pingping Sun, Kenneth R. Poeppelmeier, Ali Erdemir, Massimiliano Delferro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The energy efficiency, mechanical durability, and environmental compatibility of all moving machine components rely heavily on advanced lubricants for smooth and safe operation. Herein an alternative family of high-quality liquid (HQL) lubricants was derived by the catalytic conversion of pre- and post-consumer polyolefin waste. The plastic-derived lubricants performed comparably to synthetic base oils such as polyalphaolefins (PAOs), both with a wear scar volume (WSV) of 7.5×10−5 mm−3. HQLs also performed superior to petroleum-based lubricants such as Group III mineral oil with a WSV of 1.7×10−4 mm−3, showcasing a 44 % reduction in wear. Furthermore, a synergistic reduction in friction and wear was observed when combining the upcycled plastic lubricant with synthetic oils. Life cycle and techno-economic analyses also showed this process to be energetically efficient and economically feasible. This novel technology offers a cost-effective opportunity to reduce the harmful environmental impact of plastic waste on our planet and to save energy through reduction of friction and wear-related degradations in transportation applications akin to synthetic oils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4181-4189
Number of pages9
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 5 2021


  • depolymerization
  • lubricants
  • plastics
  • polyolefins
  • upcycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • General Materials Science
  • Environmental Chemistry


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