Sinopec lube business arm Great Wall and Tsinghua University’s Tianjin Research Institute for Advanced Equipment formed a joint research center in Tianjin to develop lubricant formulations.
The research center aims to bring together the parties’ resources to develop lubricant products that could support China’s transition to an economy powered by high-tech manufacturing, and win over global respect for China’s research and development capabilities in lubes and greases, according to a statement.
“Sinopec’s team will be in charge of product development, backed by our research theories,” Tian Yu, director at the key state laboratory of tribology at Tsinghua, told Lube Report. “We will also provide consulting service for Sinopec. The lab is part of the research institute.
He said the research center will exclusively serve Great Wall, which claims to have clients in many industries that demand top quality lubricants. These industries include aviation and high-speed trains.
The joint research center was created as the United States and China are locked in a trade war, which effectively cut off computer chip supply to China’s star cellular phone company Huawei. Indeed, the advanced lubricants are nicknamed liquid chip in the statement, echoing the importance and the urgency that China must rely on its own technologies to avoid risks of being cut out of the tech supply chain by Western countries.
But it takes a lot of work to reach self-sufficiency, Tian acknowledged. He said Chinese branded lubes are good enough to replace foreign branded lubes in most cases, but in certain cases, such as being used in an extreme environment, foreign branded lubes are still preferred.
“China still lags behind Western countries in advanced research,” he said, citing the example of a common grease soap thickener. “Aside from being a thickener, what other soap characteristics benefit a grease?” he said. “This kind of thinking that China lacks is critical to develop an innovative lube product.”