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Lubricants, Lubrication and their Importance.

April 01, 2012  by: Ankit Neerav  Points: 12   Category: Others  Earning $0.50   Views: 661

The definition, usage, types and functions of lubricants and the importance of lubrication.


Lubricants are certain chemical substances which are used to reduce the frictional force between two surfaces in contact with each other. By reducing the co-efficient of friction between the surfaces, it does not allow the direct contact between these two surfaces undergoing relative motion. This process of decreasing frictional force is known as Lubrication.

-The Mechanism of Lubrication.
It has been observed that when two metallic surfaces in contact with each other are in motion then a frictional force develops between these two metal surfaces due to which the wear and tear of the softer metals occur. This causes a number of minute peaks and valleys to be formed on both surfaces, called Asperities. The main disadvantages of having asperities is that it decreases the overall efficiency of the machine having these moving parts. This is where lubricants step in. When lubricants are placed between moving metallic surfaces they stop or reduce the formation of asperities and decreases the frictional force which in turn minimizes wear and tear of metal surfaces. The main reason behind this being that the real area of contact of the two sliding surfaces becomes smaller than the area of contact in the absence of the lubricant. As a result of this whole process there is an increase in the efficiency of the machine, tool, engines or automobiles and aircraft as a whole.

-Functions of a Lubricant.
The main functions that a lubricant performs include:
1. They reduce the cost of maintenance of machine parts, tools, household appliances, vehicles, aircraft, ships, generators, turbines and all types of engines.
2. They reduce the force of friction between two moving surfaces and facilitates smooth sliding, and thus reduces the amount of noise produced by the machine.
3. They reduce the loss of heat energy produced by the frictional force between the moving surfaces and thus acts as coolant.
4. They increase the efficiency of a machine by reducing the frictional force between moving parts.
5. They act as seal in certain type of engines and prevent the leakage of gases under high pressure from the cylinder.

-Types of Lubricants.
In general, lubricants are of three types:
1. Solid lubricants- These are lubricants that exist in the solid form and are used in heavy machinery that operate under very heavy load and at low speed. Examples are graphite, soap stone, mica etc.
2. Semi-solid lubricants- These exist in the gel form like paste or grease and are used to support much heavier loads at lower speeds. Examples are greases, vaseline, creams etc.
3. Liquid lubricants- These exist in liquid form and are most widely used. They function as sealing agents, corrosion preventer and cooling medium. Examples include animal oil, vegetable oil, mineral oil, emulsions etc.

-Methods of Lubrication.
Three types of lubrication methods are generally used:
1. Fluid film lubrication or Hydrodynamic lubrication- Moving surfaces are separated by thick film of liquid lubricants of around 1000 Angstrom. Used in watches, clocks, guns, sewing machines and scientific equipment.
2. Boundary lubrication or thin film lubrication- The thickness of lubricating film is around one to two molecular layers. Used in heavy load, slow speed shafts.
3. Extreme pressure lubrication- Have special additives to work at extreme pressure and high temperatures. Used in wire drawing, machining tough metals etc.

Lubricants are selected for a given purpose by the study of certain properties such as oiliness, viscosity, volatility, thermal stability, specific gravity etc. They have very wide applications ranging from wrist watch parts to jet engines. Therefore lubricants play a hidden but very important role in our lives.


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