How Polymers Behave as Viscosity Index Improvers in Lubricating Oils


One of the requirements of engine lubricating oil is that it must have a low enough viscosity at low temperatures to assist in cold starting and a high enough viscosity at high temperatures to maintain its load-bearing characteristics. Viscosity Index (VI) is one approach used widely in the lubricating field to assess the variation of viscosity with temperature. The VI of both mineral and synthetic base oils can be improved by the addition of polymeric viscosity modifiers (VMs). VI improvement by VMs is widely attributed to the polymer coil size expanding with increasing temperature. However, there is very little physical data supporting this generally accepted mechanism. To address this issue, intrinsic viscosity measurements and Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) have been used to study the variation of polymer coil size with changing temperature and concentration in a selection of solvents. The results will show that coil size expansion with temperature is not necessary to achieve significant elevation of viscosity index.

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Covitch, M. and Trickett, K. (2015) How Polymers Behave as Viscosity Index Improvers in Lubricating Oils. Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science, 5, 134-151. doi: 10.4236/aces.2015.52015.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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