On the Required Energy to Break Down the Thickener Structure of Lubricating Greases

Robert Jan Meijer*, Jude A. Osara, Piet M. Lugt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The rheology of a conventional lithium-12 hydroxystearate bearing grease changes significantly when it is subjected to mechanical shear. Often this shear energy–along with the consequent entropy–is measured and used in engineering and thermodynamic models, leading to grease life models for predicting bearing seizure due to insufficiently thick film or loss of lubricity of the base oil/grease. In this degradation process, the bonds between the individual molecules, consisting mainly of the fairly weak van der Waals bonds and/or hydrogen bonds, are broken during this shearing process. In this article, we show that only a very small portion of the shear energy is needed to break these bonds and that the vast majority is dissipated as heat due to the lubricant viscosity, also known as viscous dissipation. We model the thickener as rod-shaped fibers, wherein the grease viscosity is reduced by a factor of 5 when the length of a fiber is reduced by a factor of 2.5. The energy needed to break the bonds between the molecules to shorten these fibers is 6 to 7 orders of magnitude smaller than the energy applied by shear. Hence, it is very difficult to measure this fiber structure breakage energy from grease shear aging experiments directly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-128
Number of pages6
JournalTribology transactions
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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