story to find out more.
In aluminum rolling
mill operations like this one, Alcoa, Inc., tested ARSs new biobased
metalworking fluid and preferred it to the petroleum-based lubricants.
Image courtesy Alcoa, Inc.
Metalworking Lube From Soy Oil
By Jan Suszkiw
May 8, 2006
A biodegradable metalworking fluid derived from soybean oil is earning
high marks in trials by Alcoa, Inc., a
global supplier of primary and fabricated aluminum products.
The Pittsburgh-based company is conducting the trials under a
five-year, cooperative research and development agreement involving a team led
Erhan at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS)
Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.
The partnership began in 2001 when Alcoa technical consultant Ronald
Reich contacted the ARS team about the feasibility of developing metalworking
fluids from biobased resources rather than petroleum, which is nonrenewable.
The fluids are critical to Alcoa's hot and cold flat-rolling operations, which
produce aluminum sheets for everything from beer cans to aircraft-wing panels.
Alcoa sought a biobased formulation that readily breaks down in the
environment and comes from a domestic resource, such as oilseed crops.
Furthermore, the method for producing it had to be economic and nonpolluting.
And, of course, the biobased fluid had to meet all industry criteria for safety
The ARS team's first step was to examine the chemical structures that
give mineral-oil-based metalworking fluids their functional properties. Then
they had to keep those observations in mind in making a biobased equivalent,
which they did using modified soy oil and antioxidants for oxidative stability.
According to Erhan, who leads the ARS center's
and Industrial Oil Research Unit, they chose soy oil because it's
plentiful, home-grown and chemically versatile to work with. After evaluating
several soy-based formulations, Alcoa chose one for a first round of tests at
its aluminum-continuous casting plant in Reno, Nev. Operators there who
evaluated the formulation were so pleased, according to Reich, they promptly
substituted it for their synthetic fluids.
The soy-based formulation also performed well this past December in
large-scale trials involving a reversing-mill process at Alcoa's Lancaster,
about the research in the May 2006 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.