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What are the components of grease ?

We were discussing the selection procedure of right grease for our application with the help of our previous post i.e. How to select the right grease


Grease is a semi-solid lubricant that is used to reduce friction and wear between two surfaces that are in relative motion. Grease is basically composed of three main components i.e. a base oil, a thickener, and additives. 


The components of grease and their respective weights can vary depending on the specific formulation and application. However, a typical grease formulation by weight might include as mentioned below 


Base oil - 70% to 95% 

Thickener - 5% to 30% 

Additives - 1% to 10%



Base oil 

Base oil is an essential component of grease formulations. Base oil comprises the largest component of a grease, representing 70 - 95% by weight as mentioned above. 


It serves as the primary lubricating fluid and helps to reduce friction and wear between moving surfaces. The selection of the appropriate base oil depends on the specific application, such as the operating temperature, speed, load, and environmental conditions. 


There are various types of base oils available for use in grease formulations, including mineral oils, synthetic oils, and vegetable oils. Mineral oils are the most commonly used base oils due to their availability and cost-effectiveness. 


Types of base oils  

There are several types of base oils, as mentioned below, available for use in grease formulations. 


Mineral oil: 

This is a petroleum-derived oil that is commonly used as a base oil in grease formulations. Mineral oil is relatively low cost and provides good lubrication performance. 


Synthetic oil: 

These are man-made oils that are synthesized using various chemical processes. Synthetic oils can provide superior lubrication performance compared to mineral oils, and they can also withstand high temperatures and extreme conditions. 


Vegetable oil: 

This is a natural oil that is derived from plant sources, such as soybean, canola, or palm. Vegetable oils are biodegradable and environmentally friendly, but they may not provide the same level of lubrication performance as mineral or synthetic oils. 


Animal fat: 

This is a natural oil that is derived from animal sources, such as beef tallow or lard. Animal fats can provide good lubrication performance, but they are not commonly used in modern grease formulations due to concerns about sustainability and environmental impact. 


Bio-based oil: 

These are oils that are derived from renewable sources, such as plant oils or waste cooking oil. Bio-based oils can provide good lubrication performance and are environmentally friendly, but they may be more expensive than other types of base oils.


The choice of the appropriate base oil for a particular grease formulation depends on various factors, such as the desired properties of the grease, the intended application, and the environmental considerations. A lubrication expert or a grease manufacturer can assist in selecting the most suitable base oil for a particular application.


Thickener 

A thickener is an essential component of grease formulations that provides the semi-solid or solid consistency required for the grease to adhere to the surfaces it is intended to lubricate. 


The choice of the appropriate thickener depends on various factors, such as the operating temperature range, speed, load, and environmental conditions. 


There are several types of thickeners commonly used in grease formulations, including metal soaps, polyurea, lithium complex, and calcium sulfonate. 


Types of thickeners 

There are several types of thickeners used in grease formulations as mentioned below. 


Lithium: 

Lithium-based thickeners are the most common type of thickener used in greases. They provide excellent resistance to water, oxidation, and high temperatures. Lithium-based greases are versatile and used in a wide range of applications. 


Calcium: 

Calcium-based thickeners are another common type of thickener used in greases. They are less resistant to high temperatures than lithium-based thickeners, but they offer superior water resistance and are often used in marine applications. 


Aluminum: 

Aluminum-based thickeners are used in greases designed for high-temperature applications. They offer excellent resistance to extreme temperatures and are often used in industrial applications, such as steel mills and foundries. 


Polyurea: 

Polyurea-based thickeners offer excellent resistance to water and are often used in applications where water is present, such as in marine environments. They also provide superior stability at high temperatures. 


Bentone: 

Bentone-based thickeners are used in greases designed for high-pressure applications. They offer excellent resistance to pressure and can withstand heavy loads. 


PTFE: 

PTFE-based thickeners are used in greases designed for extreme temperatures and harsh environments. They offer excellent resistance to heat, chemicals, and corrosion.


The choice of the appropriate thickener for a particular grease formulation depends on several factors, such as the desired properties of the grease, the intended application, and the environmental considerations. A lubrication expert or a grease manufacturer can assist in selecting the most suitable thickener for a particular application.


Additives 

Additives are compounds that are added to grease formulations to enhance their performance or provide specific properties required for the intended application. 


The choice of the appropriate additives depends on various factors, such as the desired properties of the grease, the intended application, and the environmental conditions. 


There are several types of additives that can be used in grease formulations to enhance their performance and properties. Some common types of additives are mentioned below. 


Extreme pressure (EP) additives: 

These additives are used to improve the ability of the grease to withstand high pressure and shock loads without breaking down. They typically contain sulfur, phosphorus, or chlorine compounds. 


Anti-wear (AW) additives: 

These additives help reduce wear and tear on metal surfaces by forming a protective film that prevents direct metal-to-metal contact. Zinc, molybdenum, and calcium compounds are commonly used as AW additives. 


Friction modifiers: 

These additives are used to reduce friction and improve energy efficiency in applications where sliding or rolling friction occurs. Examples include molybdenum disulfide and graphite. 


Rust and corrosion inhibitors: 

These additives help protect metal surfaces from rust and corrosion by forming a protective barrier that prevents moisture and other corrosive agents from attacking the metal. Examples include zinc, phosphorus, and molybdenum compounds. 


Antioxidants: 

These additives help prevent the oxidation and breakdown of the grease over time, which can lead to reduced performance and shortened lifespan. Examples include hindered phenols, amines, and sulfides. 


Viscosity improvers: 

These additives help improve the viscosity of the grease over a wide range of temperatures, ensuring that it maintains its lubricating properties even at low temperatures. Polymers such as polyisobutylene and ethylene propylene are commonly used as viscosity improvers. 


Dye and fragrance additives: 

These additives are used to give the grease a distinctive color and scent, which can be useful for identifying different types of greases and making them more pleasant to work with.


The choice and amount of additives to be used in a grease formulation depend on the specific application requirements. The use of too many additives can negatively impact the performance of the grease, while too few additives can result in inferior performance. A lubrication expert or a grease manufacturer can assist in selecting the most suitable additives for a particular application.  


The composition of grease can vary depending on its intended use and application. For example, high-temperature grease used in industrial applications may contain a thickener such as a clay or polyurea, along with additives like molybdenum disulfide or graphite to improve its performance under extreme conditions.


On the other hand, multi-purpose grease used in automotive applications may have a lithium complex thickener and additives such as anti-wear and corrosion inhibitors. 


Next Post - Key Properties of Grease


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