As different wave and tidal energy generators advance towards the commercial deployment phase, addressing potential issues related to the lubrication of the machine components integrating the Power Take Off system (PTO) due to the harsh operating conditions encountered in the marine environment becomes even more essential. Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs) based on water-soluble polymers are proposed as a way to reduce friction and wear of the mechanical components in wave and tidal energy generators. Although these fluids have the advantage of being biodegradable and non-toxic, they have not shown to be as effective as other synthetic fluids, or mineral oils in preventing corrosion, severe friction, and wear, thus increasing the risk of moving parts experiencing premature failure.
This work explores the potential of different water-soluble polymers to be used in the formulation of EALs that can meet the strict environmental regulations while providing effective protection against wear, and corrosion in offshore operating conditions. To evaluate the potential of these lubricants as an alternative to replace conventional mineral oils, different polymers were analyzed from the point of view of their ability to form an effective full lubricant film that can keep separation between the contacting surfaces, mitigate wear, and prevent corrosion. The rheological properties of these polymers were also studied at different concentrations in order to optimize the performance in the application. The hydrodynamic film build-up properties of EALs formulated with water-soluble polymers with different molecular weight, concentration, and viscosity are reported. The corrosion resistance exhibited by steel components when exposed to the different formulations compared to seawater was an object of examination. The study also aimed to establish correlations between the lubricant film-build up properties, viscosity, and electrical impedance.
The results showed that high molecular weight polymers can form a separating film at relative high pressure in the low-speed region even at low polymer concentrations. While with the increasing speed, the fluid viscosity becomes more important to sustain a full film between contacting surfaces. With the increasing concentration of polymer in the aqueous solution the open circuit potential (OCP) becomes more negative indicating the deterioration of the steel corrosion resistance.
The results provide new insights into the design of EALs that can effectively protect the mechanical components of wave and tidal energy generators while minimizing environmental impact. The findings suggest that water-soluble polymers are a promising solution for offshore applications, as they can provide efficient full film lubrication, mitigate wear, and prevent corrosion. These polymers can help to improve the performance and lifespan of offshore power generators while minimizing the environmental impact.