The principle of isosterism was employed to design low- or zero-sulfur anti-wear lubricant additives. Thiobenzothiazole compounds and 2-benzothiazole-S-carboxylic acid esters were employed as templates. Sulfur in the thiazole ring or in the branched chain was exchanged with oxygen, CH2, or an NH group. Similarly, the template's benzimidazole ring was replaced with a quinazolinone group. Quantitative structure tribo-ability relationship (QSTR) models by back propagation neural network (BPNN) method were used to study correlations between additive structures and their anti-wear performance. The features of rubbing pairs with different additives were identified by energy dispersive spectrometer-scanning electron microscope analysis. A wide range of samples showed that sulfur substitution in additive molecules was found to be reasonable and feasible. Combined effects of the anti-wear additive and the base oil were able to improve anti-wear performance.

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