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Perpetual Lubricant Technique

If you can keep it from leaking out, then it's there to keep on doing its job.
  [vote for,

Most things that need to be lubricated usually need to be lubricated again and again. Either it gets dirty, usually from tiny warn-off pieces of metal, and needs to be replaced (oil for car engines), or its substance breaks down under working conditions, and must be replaced (oil for car engines) --or it simply leaks out and must be replaced (oil for car engines).

Not every lubricant suffers all three fates, but practically speaking, they all tend to suffer from at least one of those fates. It logically follows that for certain applications, if those fates can be avoided, then one shot of lubricant should be useful practically forever.

Now, there are already some things which are labeled as "permanently lubricated", but that doesn't mean that the lubricated things (often shaft bearings of electric motors) aren't going to suffer wear-and-tear and eventually break. Obviously, if we want this Idea to be properly implemented, the lubricant needs to ensure that the parts being lubricated never make actual physical contact; each part must only contact the lubricant that separates them. Note that if the parts stay separated, they can't rub tiny pieces of metal off, and make the lubricant dirty.

Next, if we are not working in a high-temperature environment (such as car engines have), then the lubricant should never suffer breakdown of its substance. Note also that if we can keep the mechanical parts separated by lubricant, then heat from friction is minimized and this possible cause of breakdown of the substance of the lubricant can also be prevented.

The biggest problem may be sealing the lubricant such that it doesn't leak out. It has to stay in place if it is going to keep the parts separated, after all!

Well, I do happen to think we might be able to manage those things. The trick is not just a special lubricant, it's a whole procedure that requires special parts, too.

Most of the special parts are known as "electrets". This is basically a piece of plastic that has a permanent static-electric charge, in the way that a piece of appropriate metal can be associated with a permanent magnetic field.

Let's start with something really basic, a rotating shaft that we want to lubricate and support. Gravity can be a significant factor here, so for now I'll specify that this trick is mostly for light-duty stuff. Advancements in the technique MIGHT someday allow it to be used for heavy-duty things, but for now we'll keep it light.

Normally, at each point where a rotating shaft is supported, some sort of lubricated bearing is used. We only wish to modify the details of that normal thing.

First, INSIDE THE SHAFT, at each support location, we place an electret.

Second, a simple "sleeve" type of bearing will be specified. The shaft does not fit too snugly inside the sleeve; we want to put lubricant in the gap between them, after all!

Third, outside the sleeve, we place another electret. Both electrets must have the same type of electric charge (either both positive or both negative).

Now we design our lubricant. First, we invoke the magic word "Nanotechnology" to create a huge number of very tiny plastic spheres, and each one of them gets a small static electric charge; each sphere will also be an electret.

Second, we chemically attach to each sphere an outer layer of molecules which are basically lubricant-stuff. Because chemical bonds hold these (probably hydrocarbon) molecules to the plastic (also probably hydrocarbon) spheres, they won't break under ordinary stresses.

That's about all there is to our "designer" lubricant. Just make sure the static electric charge here is OPPOSITE to the charges on the shaft and sleeve electrets!

Now we inject this lubricant in between the shaft and the sleeve. Simple static-electric attraction perpetually keeps the lubricant from leaking out! Simple static-electric repulsion helps keep the shaft and sleeve apart, so that lubricant spheres can perpetually stay in-between them, statically attracted by both. And because the lubricant consists of vast numbers of tiny spheres, all of which can "roll" perfectly well, this sleeve-bearing technique should be just as good as, and possibly better than, any ball-bearing or roller-bearing technique for supporting a rotating shaft. --For light-duty loads, that is. Stronger static-electric charges on the electrets may allow heavier-duty application of this Idea. But there are limits to what we can currently make along that line.

Vernon, May 21 2008

About Electrets http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electret
For anyone who needs to know. [Vernon, May 22 2008]


       So graphite then. The rest of the idea is completely lost on me.
WcW, May 21 2008

       // The rest of the idea is completely lost on me //   

       We understand it.   

       The issue is the operation of the electrostatic force on the lubricant against the problem of physical pressure.   

       Worth cosideration, but NASA has done a fair bit of work on ferromagnetic fluids and electrets.
8th of 7, May 21 2008

       [8th of 7], in outer space where gravity is not a significant factor, heavier-duty loads should be quite possible with what was described here. That's because most of the "load" on Earth is simple wright. There will still be limits because mechanical force-transmission loads can still be quite large, but I do think the bar can be raised from the simple "light duty" mentioned in the main text to also include "medium duty".
Vernon, May 21 2008

       //in outer space where gravity is not a significant factor// [marked-for-tagline]
AbsintheWithoutLeave, May 21 2008

       [quantum flux], you obviously don't know anything about electrets. Look it up, then edit your post accordingly. Electrets can be made prior to the manufacture of devices that use them.
Vernon, May 22 2008

       oh sorry, I was sort of tired when I went over this last time. I suppose that electrets require heat or pressure inputs to produce a voltage, and you can make buckyballs out of graphite, but I still don't fully grasp the concept of how to use that voltage plus those tiny spheres as a lubricating agent....I'll try again later.
quantum_flux, May 23 2008

       Electrets != pyroelectric or piezoelectric materials
notexactly, May 27 2018

       Pedant alert (twice in one day, even!!!)   

       I liked the " tiny warn-off pieces of metal" on line 3. It would be handy, you could teach them to wave red flags etc.
not_morrison_rm, May 27 2018

       I’ve been into electronics since the early 70s, even did it at school in Lincolnshire, here in the UK, and then Melbourne, there in the Oz, as a subject, then got jobs involving doing it for real, etc. It has only been the past couple of years I’ve realised how much of it I really don’t know.   

       And now, for a completely different reason (ie, non-technical) I’m delving into the fundamentals again, and it has started to occur to me over the past month that the single most important thing about all of this that I should have understood to begin with is the concept of ‘charge’.   

       If I’d have been introduced to what ‘charge’ is all about, I’d either have given up on it because it involves maths, numbers and squiggly random lines – shit that isn’t even pronounceable, or I’d have understood almost everything that was to come: conductance, resistance, capacitance, inductance, transconductance, magnetism, static electricity and all that other voodoo that we just assume works somehow. I wish I’d appreciated charge much earlier than just a few weeks ago (although I must admit, I still don’t appreciate the fullness of it – I just understand that it is THE big fundamental thing, and there’s a lot to it).
Ian Tindale, May 27 2018

       Cool. Electrets are fascinating. There's something I don't get though, here's a quote from the linked page:   

       "When a magnet and an electret are near one another, a rather unusual phenomenon occurs: while stationary, neither has any effect on one another. However, when an electret is moved with respect to a magnetic pole, a force is felt which acts perpendicular to the magnetic field, pushing the electret along a path 90 degrees to the expected direction of 'push' as would be felt with another magnet."   

       They say 'what' it does... but they don't explain why or how it does this.
Is it like gyroscopic precession of charges?
I don't understand.

       Oddly, this is the exact thing I’m trying to write about at this time, currently. As I understand it, the flow of current through a conductor will induce a magnetic field around the conductor. This field will act to partially impede the progress of the current flow, and this sets up a voltage difference across the conductor. The charge, the energy, that doesn’t make it through the conductor becomes energy in the cloud of magnetic charge around it. If the current flow remains the same, the voltage difference remains the same, the effect of the magnetic charge remains the same. If the current varies up and down, the magnetic flux has an effect on the current flow, but not immediately –  there is a delay, both on the increasing flow of charge, and decreasing flow of charge, of making it easier or harder for the charges to flow (and causing a varying difference in voltage across it).   

       The thing that happens in a dielectric is that the electric charge influences each magnetic charge to become offset from centre rather than to actually flow (as they would in a conductor). How far it is offset is called the dipole moment. When the influence upon the dielectric goes away the offset returns to normal but not immediately, subject to a delay.   

       The magnetic force around a current flow is 90° because of a rule involving two fingers and a thumb.
Ian Tindale, May 27 2018

       If anyone has a terminal illness and therefore would benefit from a short summary, I think it says:   

       "Use electret components to keep an electret-coupled lubricant in the appropriate place."
MaxwellBuchanan, May 27 2018

       The breeding program that produces all that smoky turtling definitely has to be boosted to more significant figures.
wjt, May 28 2018

       I am wrong to pretend an electret is a magnet, but lets pretend its a magnet. A teeny magnet does not have much pull. A big spinning thing, with slightest perturbation would have a lot of push. if the big squishy push is bigger than the enntsy pull then oil will still spurt out. The thing would work only when the machine rotated without vibration. I am looking forward to being refuted. this would be good for robots!
beanangel, May 29 2018

       Excellent annotation, [beany].
pertinax, May 29 2018

       Thanks [Ian].   


       Maybe [Vernon] and [beany] should team up and develop intimate lubricants for blow-up dolls. On the other hand, there might be places where you don't want to encounter a permanent static charge.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 30 2018

       Bearings in engines tend to undergo forces much larger than that of gravity. Unless you're talking about some other completely different bearing usage.
RayfordSteele, May 30 2018

       "Plastic" means hydrocarbons, right? Because those don't stand up well to heat. And how are you going to maintain opposing charges?
Voice, May 31 2018

       Simple – brexit!
Ian Tindale, May 31 2018

       // "When a magnet and an electret are near one another, a rather unusual phenomenon occurs: while stationary, neither has any effect on one another. However, when an electret is moved with respect to a magnetic pole, a force is felt which acts perpendicular to the magnetic field, pushing the electret along a path 90 degrees to the expected direction of 'push' as would be felt with another magnet."   

       They say 'what' it does... but they don't explain why or how it does this. Is it like gyroscopic precession of charges? I don't understand. //   

       Lorentz force.
notexactly, Jun 02 2018

       Ahhhh, and now my head hurts again. Those poor little atrophied neurons just stretching to their teeny breaking points trying to figure out what I just made them look at.   

       hehe they're all pissed off at me right now.   

       they'll get over it   


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