Iowa researchers to study grease as train power - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa researchers to study grease as train power

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WATERLOO (KWWL)-- The University of Northern Iowa's National Ag Based Lubricants Center has been awarded a $371,373 grant to study new ways to power locomotives.  Soy-based grease could be the key to keeping the train industry chugging along.

The locomotive industry carries a lot of people and products across the country's railways every day.  But powering those engines uses a lot of fuel that's not always environmentally friendly.

"The railroad industry alone uses well over 10 million pounds a year of just rail curve lubrication grease and over 50 million gallons a year of engine oils for diesel locomotives.  So the scale of the industry is huge, and it's one of the better targets to improve the environmental aspects," said Wes James with the National Ag Based Lubricants Center.

So researchers at the National Ag Based Lubricants Center, or NABL, will soon begin studying new ways to keep the wheels of locomotives turning.  A grant from the Federal Railroad Administration will allow scientists in the Cedar Valley to look at how specific kinds of grease and hydraulic fluids can give trains cleaner power.

"If we can improve the environmental aspects of the national transportation industry, create new markets for Iowa based, soy based products, and at the same time, improve the lubrication performance for the railroads, everybody wins," James said.From the lab, researchers will take their products to the train tracks for testing to see just what kinds of grease work best and are most cost efficient.

"The products and technology are already available, but like anything else, the users definitely need to have positive proof that the products are going to work in their applications before they adopt them," said James.

Ultimately, NABL hopes to find a product that fits the need of locomotives to cut down on the industry's use of petroleum products.

NABL plans to officially get the study underway next summer, and it will take about a year to complete.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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