To readily assess the lubricant’s performance, testing and diagnosis of oils in-service is necessary. This is especially important to prolong engine life and avoid sudden and unforeseen damages to the engine. Fourier-Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy utilizes the interaction of invisible infrared radiation and matter. This yields valuable molecular information and allows the identification of chemicals in a few seconds without consumables or additional chemicals.
All lubricants will undergo degradation while in use. The most common signs of base oil degradation are increased oxidation and shear thinning. Oxidative degradation occurs as a result of reactions with oxygen in the environment in which a lubricant resides.
Shear thinning is a physical breakdown of the oil due to pressure and temperature conditions to which the lubricant is exposed. These and other degradation processes of the lubricant make it unable to provide adequate lubrication for mechanical moving engine parts.
In both cases, FT-IR spectroscopy can help to detect the residues of these decompositions and thus draw conclusions about the residual quality of the oil.
Due to improper fuel-to-air ratio, piston ring wear, fuel leaks or residual fuel get into the oil. Combustion residues mainly consist of long chain hydrocarbons with high combustion and boiling points, while fuel leakage also brings in lighter material.
Thus, in either case, the increasing fire hazard potential makes determining the presence of fuels in diesel engine oils of prime importance.
In such cases, FT-IR spectrometers are easy to use solutions. Modern spectrometers are hardly bigger than a shoebox and offer touch-screen operation for enhanced usability.
Depending on fuel and lubricant quality, water tends to be a rather infrequent contaminant because of the operating conditions in the average engine. However, if present, it can indicate coolant (water) leakage. Water contamination promotes base oil oxidation and hydrolysis of additives resulting acidity build-up and in increased wear and corrosion.
The presence of water can also cause gelling of the oil and formation of emulsions affecting the viscosity of the oil leading to engine failure. Download our application note to learn more about what FT-IR oil analysis can do for you!