Viscosity offers resistance against internal friction between two surfaces or fluid particles during the flow of fluids. The change in viscosity across temperature variations is arbitrarily measured by viscosity index (VI). Fluid’s friction reducing ability is closely related to its viscosity.
Typically, fluids that can force the two moving surfaces apart with the least viscosity are preferred. If a fluid is of very low viscosity, the friction between the surfaces can increase due to their contact with each other. On the other hand, large energy is required for movement if the fluid is too viscous.
Based on the scale of viscosity index, fluids can be categorized into low, medium, high, and very high viscosity fluids. The VI scale was set up by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Depending upon the application, fluids with appropriate viscosity are selected to carry out the process.
If the viscosity is not at par with the requirements, viscosity index improvers (VIIs) can be added to the fluid to modify its viscosity. For instance, turpentine is added to paints to make the paint thinner and less viscous. In this instance, the low viscosity of the fluid is desirable in order to increase work efficiency.
Commonly employed VIIs are polymers, typically olefin copolymers (OCP) of ethylene and propylene. These polymers are employed in the making of diversified products such as lubricant additives, insulation or coating of electrical wires, and automobile trims. When an increase in the viscosity of oils is required, polymer coils can be used as their interaction with oil and each other causes resistance to the flow of oil. In this instance, the high viscosity of the fluid is desirable.
The field of VIIs or viscosity modifiers is still advancing; research & development activities are being carried out in chemical technology in order to develop products that can modify the viscosity of fluids without changing their chemical properties and effectiveness.
Viscosity index improvers are commonly used in automotive lubricants, especially passenger cars and heavy-duty trucks. They are employed in automatic transmission fluids, multi-grade engine oils, certain hydraulic fluids, gear oils, and greases. These applications dominate the VIIs used in the lubricants market.
Engine friction can be reduced by lowering viscosity of lubricants. This can contribute toward fuel economy performance of a vehicle. Improving fuel economy performance is a priority for passenger car OEMs due to the numerous environmental legislations and consumer requirements. Fuel economy derived from redesigning of engines is less cost-effective as compared to advancements in lubricants & their formulations. Hence, R&D in lubricants is gaining prominence for efficiency improvement.
Based on type of fluid in which VIIs are employed, the market can be segmented into lubricants, fuels, industrial solvents, hydraulic fluids, chemicals, and others. Based on industry application, the market for viscosity index improvers can be divided into automotive, paints & coatings, oil & gas, marine, food, industrial equipment, and others.
Substantial requirement for VIIs exists in developed regions due to their proficient use in order to increase efficiency across various process industries. Rise in industrialization is expected to be one of the factors driving the market for viscosity index improvers in developing economies. Demand for eco-friendly and stable products is on the rise. Several industries are switching to these products. The use of ecofriendly products is anticipated to boost the viscosity index improvers market in the near future.
Key players operating in the viscosity index improvers market include Chevron Oronite Company LLC, Infineum International Limited, Afton Chemical, Functional Products Inc, The Lubrizol Corporation, Evonik, Conco Philips, and Tri-iso Tryline.
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