Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Less Lube Required

The development of a cheap sensor that can monitor oil quality in engines as they are running could reduce the frequency of scheduled vehicle servicing.

Prof Kamal Alameh of Edith Cowan University said that an early indication of the quality of engine oil is crucial for maintaining optimum engine performance, high reliability, low maintenance costs and a better environment. “Engine manufacturers understandably err on the side of caution by recommending oil changes every 6 months or 10,000 km because they want to minimise the risk of engine damage,” he said. “The deployment of this sensor will save millions of litres of oil per year, in addition to protecting the environment through the reduction of waste oil generation.”

Alameh said the application of the sensor was wider than just car engines. “Any process that involves using oil for lubrication could benefit by including one of the sensors,” he said. “They could potentially be used to monitor oil pipelines, large industrial machinery or even airplanes.

“The sensors developed by ECU are only about 2–3 mm in diameter and are very rugged, so they could survive inside an engine to provide real-time monitoring of engine oil quality,” Alameh said.