Lubricating oil comes in several varieties, including natural,
petroleum, and synthetic forms. Oil in machinery serves multiple
purposes; for instance, it protects against corrosion and reduces
electric currents. Oil also has a higher boiling point than water and
can be used to cool machinery. Such oils are called heat transfer oils.
As many people have observed when oil and water are combined, oil does not easily adhere to other surfaces. For this reason, oil is often used as a lubricant. In industrial environments, lubricating oil is applied to moving parts and areas of friction in order to prevent wear. Bearings, dies, chains, cables, spindles, pumps, rails and gears need to be lubricated to make equipment run smoothly and reliably. Oil is not only used as a lubricant in manufacturing. Automobiles require oil to run properly; it is recommended that car owners change the oil in their vehicles every three thousand miles. Oil is also used for equipment in the food service industry. Special oils are approved by the FDA for use with food due to the possibility of any incidental contact between lubricated machines and food products. Food grade lubricants are synthetic, since they must be specially engineered to be both effective lubricants and safe to digest just in case they do touch any food product. A synthetic oil is one that has a chemically altered base oil.
Lubricating oil is commonly produced from the organic base petroleum, a mineral oil. It can also have a base of vegetable oil, and be turned into synthetic oil by adding various chemicals to boost the lubricating characteristics such as corrosion resistance. Common synthetic liquids are ester, silicone, hydrogenated polyolefins and fluorocarbons. Increased viscosity is another characteristic that synthetic oils produce, which is in essence the thickness of a substance, how easily it moves through space. Water would be considered to have low viscosity since it is completely liquid and moves easily when not contained. Honey has high viscosity since its movement is slow and it is a thick substance without being rigid. High viscosity is desirable in lubricating substances because it means the substance will coat and stay on the machine it is lubricating longer. That is why grease is another type of lubricant that is very popular in all sorts of applications. One reason lubricating oils remain so common however, is the earth friendly attitude that encourages biodegradable lubricants, which are often oil based. Sunflower seed oil, castor oil and palm oil are just a few of the organic oils that are biodegradable, leaving a smaller ecological footprint and keeping our earth that much safer from the damaging chemical releases that can come from disposing of regular lubricants.