With the correct oil, friction losses in an engine are reduced to a minimum. This is done by taking into consideration circumstances as engine usage, ambient temperature, time of year and climate, location and engine design. The engine manufacturer usually recommends a certain type of oil to use, taking all of these circumstances into account.
Engine oil contains additives known as friction modifiers/reducers and anti wear additives which are soluble and are used in the lubrication industry for many years now.
On this page we have selected a number of additives that are used in the industry for strengthening the base oil with regard to friction and anti-wear properties. These additives increases engine life, reliability, in some cases provide emergency running (no oil) and reduced fuel consumption at the same time.
In the 1970s certain gear oil additives were used and found to reduce frictional heat, temperatures under high loads and reducing clatter at the same time. Before long these additives were used in engine oil adding to the lubricity of the base oil. Early variations were made from animal or vegetable fats and later synthesized in labs from alcohols and basic chemical compounds.
Zinc Dialkyldithio Phosphates were used in relatively high concentrations in engine oils as an anti-wear extreme-pressure additive for valve trains, flat tappet camshafts and high tension valve springs in high powered engines. The use of catalytic converters in cars saw a reduction of ZDDP in oils as the phosphorus compound reduced the efficiency of these converters. There was no immediate increase in engine wear since so it seems to be doing its job, but rumors say that cam shaft wear may have raised somewhat. Some oil manufacturers are now using Titanium as a replacement.
Conclusion: added into oil by manufacturers but current levels probably a bit too low.
A new, more environmentally friendly and can be used as an anti-wear additive where more stringent emissions regulations are in force. Titanium oxide is phasing out the above mentioned ZDDP phosphorous based compounds. This additive chemically binds to metal surfaces creating a hard, oxide layer which reduces friction, thereby reducing wear. Read more in the research from King Saud University on Titanium Oxide additives.
Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) is a naturally occurring relatively inert, chemically stable, practically noncorrosive, nontoxic mineral. MoS2 has a particular affinity to adhere to metals with a peculiar mechanical thermal like chemical bonding. Under the microscope it can be seen as tiny plates. And it is these plates forming a coating, filling minute imperfections that slide over each other during lubrication creating a smooth surface reducing friction. Replenishing with half the normal dose (3-5 %) will be needed with every oil change.
Liqui Moly Aero has been producing oils containing MoS2 or Ceratec for aviations consumers for many years now. Read more about Liqui-Moly products here on site.
A combination of Zinc Oxide (ZnO) and Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) was tested as a nano-lubricant in diesel engine oil by researchers from the University of Tabriz, Iran and University of Rennes, France. Read more in their paper here: Experimental comparison between ZnO and MoS2.
Tungsten disulfide was developed by NASA as a lubricant for the Mariner deep space probes, where the high vacuum and friction
coefficient temperature render conventional lubricants unsuitable for these missions.
It adopts the same layered structure as MoS2 and is used as an additive extending gear box life, ball bearings and sliding surfaces. It is chemically inert and can withstand temperatures up to 650 °C. It is very expensive and hard to get in additive form for engines.
Hexagonal boron nitride (BN) is a ceramic powder lubricant and has a graphite-like lamellar structure, but it has been considered less effective than other solid lubricants except for high-temperature applications. Additives based on this contain Boron-based components that forms a strong covalent and ionic bond with the metal surface, lifting any existing carbon or varnish and forming a permanent new surface that is very slippery and super hard. Products from companies like Archoil, Luboron/ Altboron, Motorkote/silk and LM Ceratec are known to use Boron in their additives.
Engine oil containing additives like ZDDP, MoS2, Ceratec from Liqui Moly or WS2, are therefore preferable above any other.
Graphite is a solid lubricant and is formed in so called graphene (one atomic layer of graphite) layers in a honeycomb structure. This and many other metallic materials are often used in some other lubricating applications are less suitable. Graphite is a carbon
compound and the use of a graphite lubricant can contribute to a much faster erosion due to its conductive properties. When two different metals such as copper and iron alloy, come into contact in the presence of atmospheric moisture and an excellent conductor (like carbon graphite), low galvanic electrical currents are produced and this will eventually result in metallic oxidation, corrosion and/or pitting.
In short: not really recommended in oil, use graphite only for dry lubrication.
Polytetrafluoroethylene, or in short PTFE, is widely known as Teflon. This is a solid (micrometer size particles) that is the active ingredient in many aftermarket oil supplements. Some claims include reduced wear and reduced friction. PTFE and other suspended solids have been shown to compromise oil flow and increase wear under some conditions. Teflon does not adhere to metals by itself so it remains in suspension in contrary to WS2 and MoS2.
They can (read: might, maybe) reduce friction but OEMs do NOT approve of their use because of the associated risks. Dupont, the source for high quality PTFE, no longer sells PTFE for use as an oil additive or supplement. This makes any supplement containing PTFE even more questionable. Products like Slick 50 and FIN25 are known to contain PTFE.
Chlorinated paraffin's or hydrocarbons are soluble additives that are very common in some aftermarket oil supplements. They are used as extreme pressure additives and friction modifiers. They can be effective in this role. But, they can also become corrosive to certain engine metals and are NOT approved by some, if not all, engine OEMs. TSL (Tri Star Lube) and Militec-1 (gun lube) are some examples of this kind of additive.
Basically: stay away from PTFE and chlorine based additives!
More information about additives in Lubricant Additives Benefits.