Researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) have developed a real-time sensor that measures engine oil quality using thin metal oxide films meaning operators could shave costs of running their vehicles.
The sensor is capable of preventing engine failure and costly engine repair often caused by degraded oil and ECU Electron Science Research Institute Professor Kamal Alameh says it enables car owners to detect when the engine oil needs changing – a feature that could also have industrial applications.
“Motor engine oil degrades through oxidation which leads to acidic by-products. Those by-products lead to corrosion and are a major source of engine failure,” he said.
“We have developed a way of checking the quality of the oil as you drive, so you don’t have to rely on changes at defined intervals when the oil may have already degraded or conversely doesn’t need to be changed at all.”
The sensor is disc shaped and is 2.5mm in diameter and covered by a thin metal oxide film measuring about 300 nanometres in thickness, which is about 500 times thinner than a human hair.
“This film is a porous structure that the acidic molecules of the by-products enter into, changing the electrical property of the film,” he said.
“We then measure the electrical property and can tell whether the oil is degraded or not,”
Prof Alameh said he was hopeful drivers will find a range of benefits using the sensor.
“That reduces maintenance costs if you end up with damaged parts from using degraded oil, and labour costs alone can be expensive”.