Finding new ways to thicken grease


What came first, grease or the wheel? Greases were originally based on animal fats and modern greases based on lithium soap owe something to this ancestry. Shell's Lubricants Discovery Hub is at the forefront of research in this field and challenged Innovia to find alternative approaches to thickening grease.


The challenge: over a wide range of temperatures and shear forces, ensure oil is present when the lubricated surfaces are moving but prevent its escape when they are stationary. We combined the fundamentals of rheology with a molecular-level understanding of colloids and gelation mechanisms. Using this first-principles analysis, Innovia created concepts for new-to-world thickeners and established new directions for improving current systems. We then identified the experimental steps needed to develop the concepts, and key partners.


Our work created 5 valuable patents for Shell. It will ensure that, across the globe, rotating equipment continues to run smoothly.