Nano-Boric acid mixed with regular motor oil can greatly reduce friction in engines. This leads to increased fuel efficiency. (via Terrestrial Musings)

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have begun to combine infinitesimal particles of boric acid — known primarily as a mild antiseptic and eye cleanser — with traditional motor oils in order to improve their lubricity and by doing so increase energy efficiency.

We’re looking at a 5% increase in fuel efficiency through a simple chemical modification.

These chemists noted that Boric Acid improves the lubricity of motor oil, but within a short time, gravity separated the mixture. To fix this, they reduced the size of the boric acid to nano-particles making the mixture last.

It improves lubricity quite a bit:

In laboratory tests, these new boric acid suspensions have reduced by as much as two-thirds the energy lost through friction as heat. The implications for fuel economy are not hard to imagine, Erdemir said. “You’re easily talking about a four or five percent reduction in fuel consumption,” he said. “In a given day, we consume so many millions of barrels of oil, and if you can reduce that number by even one percent, that will have a huge economic impact.”

Best of all? Boric Acid is cheap, abundant, and safe. Not to mention that it will replace sulfur and improve the environment. Erdemir believes it will be introduced to the market within 2 years.

It’s just the first step:

Even though he has just begun to unleash the potential of boric acid, Erdemir believes that nanoscale synthetic compounds may prove to be even more effective lubricants.

From the looks of it, new chemical compounds may increase efficiency in a wide range of lubricants.