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Molecular Basis of Lubrication



Stephen M. Hsu


Lubrication is an art that has been practiced for thousands of years from the early days of our human civilization. The study of lubricatin as a science began in the 17th century with the development of bearings and axles. In the early 20th century, the advent of automobiles and steam engines spurred the development of modern complex lubricants consisted of base oils and chemical additives. The development, however, has been mostly empirical in nature. The detailed mechanisms of the chemistry and why they worked were not understood.Rapid advancements in analytical instrumentations and techniques in the last several decades offer an unprecedented opportunity to analyze the complex chemistry and probe the surfaces for chemical evidence. Recent developments in nanotechnology provide further ability to examine phenomena and mechanisms at the nanometer level. As a result of these advances, our understanding of the complex lubrication system have improved significantly. This paper will attempt to provide a molecular basis of how lubricant and additives function in lubrication.Monomolecular thin films have been developed to investigate the fundamental mechanism of boundary lubricating films. Results provide additional insights of how antiwear films work in the lubrication system. Prospect for applying this knowhow may result in a revolutionary change in our current lubricating technology.
Proceedings Title
Proceedings of the 8th Annual F&L Conference
No. 7
Conference Dates
January 29-February 1, 2002
Conference Location
Singapore, CH
Conference Title
Fuels & Lubes Asia Conference


additives, alkyl chain length, Boundary lubrication, molecular structures, surface chemistry, tribochemistry


Hsu, S. (2002), Molecular Basis of Lubrication, Proceedings of the 8th Annual F&L Conference, Singapore, CH (Accessed July 19, 2024)


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Created February 1, 2002, Updated February 19, 2017