Oil Anaylsis

There are two sides to every story and that is the case with oil analysis. The figure below depicts the traditional used oil analysis (UOA) and the wear particle analysis. Each have a place in your oil analysis program, the question that needs to be answered is what information are you looking for?

Used oil analysis involves sampling and analyzing oil for various properties and materials in order to monitor wear and contamination in an engine, transmission or hydraulic system. Sampling and analyzing on a regular basis establishes a baseline of normal wear and can help indicate when abnormal wear or contamination is occurring.

Used oil analysis works like this. Oil that has been inside any moving mechanical apparatus for a period of time reflects the exact condition of that assembly. Oil is in contact with mechanical components as wear metallic trace particles enter the oil. These particles are so small they remain in suspension. The oil becomes a working history of the machine.

There are two main characteristics of used oil analysis that are of particular importance: physical properties and elemental analysis. Physical properties include:

  • Viscosity
  • Oxidation
  • Water Content

These three properties control many of the aspects of the lubricant. Changes in any of these, up or down, indicates an abnormal condition and would need to be addressed.

Elemental analysis, also known as spectroscopy, is the analysis of the chemical composition. A sample of the lubricant is subjected to a high energy source usually either an electric arc or plasma flame. The lubricant is vaporized and the light generated is based through a series of prisms and detectors. The count, given in parts per million (ppm), is displayed. The elements are broken down into wear, additive and contaminant.

Wear Elements
Additive Elements
Contaminant Elements
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Tin
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Silver
  • Nickel
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Barium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Silicon
  • Vanadium
  • Titanium
Wear particle analysis is also known as Ferrography. Ferrography is determined by using precision magnets to strip iron-laden and other susceptible particles from a used lube oil for study; results indicate extent of equipment wear and likelihood of imminent failure.

Direct-Reading Ferrography uses optical sensors to measure the density of particles collected and the ratio of large particles to small (fatigue-related catastrophic failure generally is characterized by generation of particles larger than 10-15 microns or um).

Analytical Ferrography employs microscopic and photographic evaluation of equipment particles. This evaluation involves discriminating the particles by Size, Shape, Composition & Concentration. The test provides in-depth analysis of particle makeup (e.g., steel, copper, bronze, aluminum or corrosive) and type of wear (e.g., rolling, sliding, spinning or impaction contact).

For additional information on complete oil analysis, contact PEMCo.

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