Thanks to the work of the University of Northern Iowa's National Ag-Based Lubricants or NABL Center, biobased and soybean oil based lubricants and greases are no longer a novelty, but are a well-recognized commercial success.
NABL will cease operations in 2014 after 22 years of activity due to the loss of federal funds. The nonprofit, university-based research and testing facility dedicated to the advancement of biobased lubricants has made a significant long-term impact in establishing the biobased lubricants market within the U.S. "After 22 years of efforts, there is a growing biobased lubricants industry owing its success partially to the work of the UNI NABL Center," says Lou Honary, director of NABL.
NABL was established in 1991 through the collaborative efforts of UNI, the Iowa Soybean Association/Iowa Soybean Promotion Board, the State of Iowa, the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy. The center successfully developed and licensed to market more than 30 products, ranging from multi-grade hydraulic fluids to niche-market greases to gear lubricants.
UNI's NABL sees success over the years, as a number of new biobased products were generated
Through the years, more than 50 students worked at the center and helped with research. Eight patents and three pending patents were generated from the work of the NABL staff, and two companies were formed to specifically market technology that was created at the center. Since 2000, when commercialization of the NABL licensed products began, an estimated $40 million worth of lubricants and greases have been marketed by different entities.
"We feel we have accomplished many of the goals and objectives of the center," says Honary. "Originally, we thought this was going to be a 1 to 3 year project but it grew to a major national center and operated for 22 years. We know the legacy of the center will continue as the products that were produced by NABL are in commercial use and continue to grow in the market."