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Brief History of Lubricants

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lubricant  is a substance introduced between two surfaces in relative motion  in order to reduce  friction and wear between them. Basically a  lubricant provides a protective film between two  surfaces so that there should be no contact thus reducing the friction  between them and at the same time removing heat generation in the engine , keeping the working temperature of engine and machine parts within safe operating limits. Beside of this lubricants protects from rust and corrosion to engine and machine parts.



It is known that various forms of primitive bearing were known in the Middle East several thousands of B.C.It is reasonable to assume that if the concept of bearing had been developed then the use of lubricant with that bearing was highly likely, even if only water.

A Mesopotamians potter’s wheel dating from 400 B.C.contained a primitive bearing with traces of bituminous substances adhering to it. This suggests that use of lubricants originating from surface petroleum deposits in the area. By 3000 B.C wheeled chariots were in extensive use in the Middle East, although few traces of lubricant materials have been associated with remnants of such vehicles.

Egyptian murals dating to about 2000 B.C show statues being dragged along the ground, with liquid being poured ahead of transporting sledge, presumably as a lubricant. There has been much speculation as to whether these liquids were water, natural oils, a type liquid grease, or even blood..


Colonel William Drake struck oil on Aug.27, 1859; marking the birth of the petroleum industry. He drilled first oil well at Titusville, Pa in America in 1859 and his well-publicized oil well created a new way to supply an arguably superior oil product, which accelerated the move toward the use of mineral oil and hastened the birth of the petroleum age. Petroleum-based oils were not widely accepted at first because they did not perform as well as many of the animal-based products. Raw crude did not make a good lubricant. But as the demand for automobiles grew, so did the demand for better lubricants. It was soon discovered that by distilling under reduced pressure –so called Vacuum distillation –fractions can be separated without the heavier product oxidizing and deteriorating. This is due to the boiling point of the fractions is reduced as the pressure is lowered, and lower temperature is sufficient to separate the mixture. By the 1920s, lubrication manufacturers started processing their base oils to improve their performance by vacuum distillation; some of these fractions were combined with soap to form Grease.  By 1923, the Society of Automotive Engineers classified engine oils by viscosity: light, medium and heavy. Engine oils contained no additives and had to be replaced every 800 to 1000 miles.

By approximately 1930, solvent processing emerged as a viable technology for improving base oil performance using a fairly safe, recyclable solvent. Most oil producers in the world still use this process today. Additives began to be widely used in 1947 when the API began to categorize engine oils by severity of service: regular, premium and heavy-duty. Additives were used to enhance the lubricant performance and extend the equipment life. In 1950, multigrade oils were first introduced which were added with polymer to enhance the Viscosity Index of the oil which improved the hot and cold performance of the oil. For several decades, the lubricants industry continued to rely heavily on additive technology to improve the performance of finished oils.

Lubrication technology evolved slowly from ancient times until the 1950s.Solvent refining technology then emerged and displaced naturally occurring petroleum distillates due to the improved lubricant properties. In the 1970s and 1980s hydro processing technologies, especially hydro cracking, allowed the manufacture of Group II base oils that have exceptional stability and low temperature performance relative to their Group I predecessors.

 Modern lubricants are formulated from a range of premium quality base oil and advanced additive technology. The purpose of a lubricant is to provide protection for moving parts – thereby reducing friction and wear of the engine. To protect engine from rust and corrosion .Cooling and debris removal are the other important benefits provided by a modern lubricant..

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