Interview with Professor Boris Zhmud, Head of Research & Development, Bizol Lubricants

Lubricant Expo interviewed advisory board member Professor Boris Zhmud, Head of Research & Development, Bizol Lubricants where we discussed his career to date, what innovations are happening in the lubricant industry, what new products Bizol Lubricants are currently working on and much more…

What is your role and responsibility within BIZOL group?

As the Head of R&D, I’m primarily responsible for resolving all technical problems related to product formulations, testing, quality assurance, and technical market support.

Talk us through your career to date, what are your career highlights?

I came to lubricant business from academia some 20 years ago. It happened by chance – when working at YKI – the Institute for Surface Chemistry in Sweden – I was involved in a large European project on surface texturing and microlubrication together with FUCHS. Since that, I’m always joking that lubricant business is slippery, viscous and tacky – if you’ve slipped into it, there is no way back J After that, I worked at AB Nynas Petroleum. During one conference, I was lucky to meet Michel Roegiers. He piqued  my interest to such an obscure property of lubricants as lubricity. Many speak about lubricity but few understand what it is. We worked for some years together to advance the superlubricity concept and this was perhaps the most enjoyable project in my life. Unfortunately, I had to return to Sweden for family reasons.  Right now, I’m engaged in three different businesses dealing with automotive lubricants (BIZOL, Germany ), surface finishing (ANS, Sweden) and biobased brighstock development (Nuspec Oil, UK). I find it both challenging and exciting to work cross-disciplinary, on a border between mechanical engineering, tribology and lubricant formulation. This gives me a chance to meet a lot of interesting and knowledgeable people to keep my brain alive.  

Along with your amazing career, you have published many books, articles, and papers about the oil/lubricant industry, please tell us more…

When I lived in Belgium, I happened to stumble upon the Salvador Dali museum in Brugge. What caught my attention was his phrase “Modesty is not exactly my speciality”. I thought, Damn! That applies to me, too. Unlike academic researchers, I publish not because I have to, nor because I care of my citation index. For me, publishing is a way to express my views and to promote an open debate. When science is settled, it’s dead. 

What advice would you give to someone entering the lubricant industry?

Prepare for a marathon. Our business is notoriously slow. You will need a lot of patience and perseverance to succeed.  Let’s me quote Leo Tolstoy, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

What innovations are you seeing in the lubricant market that is exciting for the future of the industry?

In the future, the lubricant industry is likely to experience truly seismic transformations due to the increasing political push for decarbonisation. If fossil fuels get forbidden, refineries will close and the entire base oil supply chain will be disrupted.  We could recently see what disturbances were caused by a reduced demand for diesel – but this was nothing compared to what may come next. On the other hand, circular economy may create new opportunities for re-refining and biobased products. Organic friction modifiers will also play more important role in driveline lubricants for e-mobility. We are engaged in some joint R&D projects in this area.  

Sustainability, low CO2 emissions and environmental issues are priorities for every industry now, how do you think the lubricant industry is changing to have a more sustainable future?

I already mentioned biobased products and re-refined base oils. A broader use of synthetic products is also important for reducing the life-cycle emissions. Finally, there is a growing interest to resource-conserving lubricants.    

What projects are you and your team currently working on (if you can tell us!)?

At BIZOL, we place significant focus on research and innovation in order to maintain our technical leadership and be ahead of the curve. From strategic development programs, I’d mention our continuing work on resource-conserving lubricants, development of sustainable lubricants using re-refined base oils and biobased products, and of course, e-fluids. 

What attracted you to being an advisory board member for Lubricant Expo and what are you looking forward to seeing at the show?

First, it’s a chance to gain visibility and promote our brand. Second, it’s a fantastic networking opportunity.

What do you think exhibitors and attendees will benefit from attending the show?

New ideas, new contacts, new customers, new markets. Forget about Teams, Zoom, and Skype. To promote your business or product, nothing works better than face-to-face meetings – and never will.