Borates to Control Emissions: Reducing the Friction of Change

:: Monday, August 12, 2019 :: Posted By Maryam Moravej
A central concern of modern life is creating a sustainable environment for living and producing the food we need—now and into the future. Around the world, global leaders in science and government are applying resources toward finding solutions for those needs. Reducing energy consumption and emissions in transportation is central to those efforts.
To meet aggressive global emissions reduction goals, efforts are moving forward in two directions: Converting to lower-emissions energy sources for cars and other transport and increasing the efficiency in the systems we currently have as we make that transition.
Many people are surprised to learn that borates are a key component in reduction of emissions. Borates offer multifunctional properties that deliver benefits across applications that are the focus of emissions reduction programs. Added up, this seemingly small input delivers big improvements where they count the most.

Starting where we live: Improving energy efficiency in cars and other transportation

A main focus of the efficiency effort is on tackling the primary causes of emissions first, and one of the biggest is transportation. One of the best ways to reduce emissions of the engines we use today—in cars, trucks, buses, and aircraft—is to improve the efficiency of those engines. When an engine is running efficiently it consumes less fuel and runs cleaner. And, one of the best ways to improve engine efficiency is by reducing friction.

Lubricating oils in automotive (motor oil and transmission fluids) and aviation applications are essential for reducing friction in engines. Adding borates to engine oils and other lubricants—as well as to the fuels themselves—has proven effective in reducing engine friction even further, increasing fuel economy, and reducing harmful emissions.

How does it work?

Borate additives in lubricants and antifreeze

Lubricants are made by blending oil with additives, viscosity modifiers, ashless dispersants, detergents, inhibitors, anti-wear agents, friction modifiers, and flow enhancers. That mix of additives is adjusted to provide improved protection from heat and cold, friction, corrosion, sludge, and a host of other factors.

Borates are used widely in manufacturing additives for lubricating oils because they provide a number of the properties needed to:
  • Reduce friction
  • Provide thermal oxidative stability
  • Ensure low sludge formation and pumpability at low temperatures
  • Provide anticorrosion at high temperatures
  • Deliver good elastomer compatibility
  • Provide stability during storage
  • Eliminate sulfur odor
In addition, when borates are applied to iron and other metal surfaces, they increase the effectiveness of lubrication by forming a resilient film layer that protects the surface from corrosion while also making it more slippery.

Less friction, less wear, less expended energy—better efficiency.
Another benefit is realized when borates are used in engine coolant (antifreeze liquid) as they reduce the freezing point and increase the boiling point of those liquids.

Borates in fuel additives

Borates not only improve the function of the moving parts in an engine but can also improve the performance of the engine itself when added to fuel.
Two studies (published in the journals Wear and Tribology International) revealed that using boric acid as a lubricating additive to fuel in both diesel and gasoline passenger cars resulted in a significant efficiency improvement. It is estimated that one third of the fuel energy in an average passenger car is lost due to friction in the engine, transmission, tires, and brakes. Of this energy loss, 40% occurs inside the piston assembly. Adding boric acid to the fuel that’s used in those pistons contributes to energy saving in vehicles by reducing friction energy loss inside the heart of the engine by up to 76% compared to engines using fuels without the additive.

Borate esters in fuel additives help prevent pre-ignition and keep carburetors clean. In aviation, fuel that is stored in tanks can absorb water, creating a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal growth. The anti-microbial properties of borates help prevent that contamination, yielding a clean-burning fuel. In addition to their corrosion-inhibitive properties, boron-containing additives have detergent and anti-rust properties and reduce knocking and sludge formation.
That’s a lot of benefits from a single, simple addition.

Sustaining momentum toward a cleaner planet

As global scientists seek solutions to reduce energy consumption and emissions, borates have become a vital part of the effort to optimize energy efficiency and provide cleaner operations across diverse modes of transportation.
Industrial producers and manufacturers of lubricants and fuel additives turn to U.S. Borax to obtain the highest quality and purest products—and to access the deep industry knowledge of our experts. By working with professionals who understand their industries and operations, producers can get the greatest value from the borate products they use.
And by continually working together to find new and better options for emissions reduction, borate suppliers like U.S. Borax, manufacturers, and scientists are building a more hopeful future for the planet and the people who live here.


U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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