Grease (lubricant)
The term grease is used to describe semisolid
Quasi-solid is the physical term for a semi-solid. While similar to a solid in some respects , a quasi-solid also shares some properties of liquids, such as shape conformity to something applying pressure to it, or the ability to flow under pressure...

A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between moving surfaces. It may also have the function of transporting foreign particles and of distributing heat...

s. Although the word grease is also used to describe rendered fat of animals, in the context of lubrication, grease typically applies to a material consisting of a soap
In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible . Emulsions are part of a more general class of two-phase systems of matter called colloids. Although the terms colloid and emulsion are sometimes used interchangeably, emulsion is used when both the dispersed and the...

 with mineral
Mineral oil
A mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of alkanes in the C15 to C40 range from a non-vegetable source, particularly a distillate of petroleum....

 or vegetable oil. The characteristic feature of greases is that they possess a high initial viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

, which upon the application of shear, drops to give the effect of an oil-lubricated bearing of approximately the same viscosity as the base oil used in the grease. This change in viscosity is called thixotropy
Thixotropy is the property of certain gels or fluids that are thick under normal conditions, but flow over time when shaken, agitated, or otherwise stressed...

. Grease is sometimes used to describe lubricating materials that are simply soft solids or high viscosity liquids, but these materials do not exhibit the shear-thinning (thixotropic) properties characteristic of the classical grease. For example, petroleum jellies
Petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly, petrolatum, white petrolatum or soft paraffin, CAS number 8009-03-8, is a semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons , originally promoted as a topical ointment for its healing properties...

 such as Vaseline
Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly based products owned by Anglo-Dutch company Unilever. Products include plain petroleum jelly and a selection of skin creams, soaps, lotions, cleansers, deodorants and personal lubricants....

 are not generally classified as greases.

Greases are applied to mechanisms that can only be lubricated infrequently and where a lubricating oil would not stay in position. They also act as sealants to prevent ingress of water and incompressible materials. Grease-lubricated bearings have greater friction
Friction is the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and/or material elements sliding against each other. There are several types of friction:...

al characteristics due to their high viscosity.


A true grease consists of an oil and/or other fluid lubricant that is mixed with a thickener, typically a soap, to form a solid or semisolid. Greases are a type of shear-thinning or pseudo-plastic fluid
In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually deforms under an applied shear stress. Fluids are a subset of the phases of matter and include liquids, gases, plasmas and, to some extent, plastic solids....

, which means that the viscosity of the fluid is reduced under shear
Shear stress
A shear stress, denoted \tau\, , is defined as the component of stress coplanar with a material cross section. Shear stress arises from the force vector component parallel to the cross section...

. After sufficient force to shear the grease has been applied, the viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

 drops and approaches that of the base lubricant, such as the mineral oil. This sudden drop in shear force means that grease is considered a plastic fluid, and the reduction of shear force with time makes it thixotropic. It is often applied using a grease gun
Grease gun (tool)
A grease gun is a common workshop and garage tool used for lubrication. The purpose of the grease gun is to apply lubricant through an aperture to a specific point, usually on a grease fitting. The channels behind the grease nipple lead to where the lubrication is needed. The aperture may be of a...

, which applies the grease to the part being lubricated under pressure, forcing the solid grease into the spaces in the part.


In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

s are the most common emulsifying agent used, and the selection of the type of soap is determined by the application. Soaps include calcium stearate
Calcium stearate
Calcium stearate is carboxylate of calcium that is found in some lubricants and surfactants. It is a white waxy powder.-Production and occurrence:Calcium stearate is produced by heating stearic acid, a fatty acid, and calcium oxide:...

, sodium stearate
Sodium stearate
Sodium stearate, or sodium octadecanoate, is the sodium salt of stearic acid. It is the major component of some types of soap, especially those made from animal fat. It is found in many types of solid deodorants, rubbers, latex paints, and inks. It is also a component of some food additives and...

, lithium stearate, as well as mixtures of these components. Fatty acids derivatives other than stearates are also used, especially lithium 12-hydroxystearate
Lithium 12-hydroxystearate
Lithium 12-hydroxystearate is a variety of lithium soap and an important component of many lubricating greases.-Use:Lithium 12-hydroxystearate exhibits high oxidation stability and a dropping point up to around 200 °C. Most greases used today in motor vehicles, aircraft, and heavy machinery contain...

. The nature of the soaps influences the temperature resistance (relating to the viscosity), water resistance, and chemical stability of the resulting grease.

Powdered solid greases

Powdered solids may also be used as thickeners, especially as clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

s, which are used in some inexpensive, low performance greases. Fatty oil-based greases have also been prepared with other thickeners, such tar
Tar is modified pitch produced primarily from the wood and roots of pine by destructive distillation under pyrolysis. Production and trade in tar was a major contributor in the economies of Northern Europe and Colonial America. Its main use was in preserving wooden vessels against rot. The largest...

, graphite
The mineral graphite is one of the allotropes of carbon. It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789 from the Ancient Greek γράφω , "to draw/write", for its use in pencils, where it is commonly called lead . Unlike diamond , graphite is an electrical conductor, a semimetal...

, or mica
The mica group of sheet silicate minerals includes several closely related materials having highly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition...

, which also increase the durability of the grease.

Engineering assessment and analysis of greases

Lithium-based greases are the most commonly used; sodium and lithium based greases have higher melting point (dropping point) than calcium-based greases but are not resistant to the action of water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

. Lithium-based grease
Lithium-based grease
Lithium soap, often referred to simply as "lithium grease", is a lubricant grease containing a lithium derivative of soap. Soaps are salts of fatty acids. In the domestic setting, sodium-based soaps are common for detergents, but for lubrication and as form-release agents, soaps derived from...

 has a dropping point at 190 to 220 °C (350 to 400 °F). However the maximum usable temperature for lithium-based grease is 120 °C.

The amount of grease in a sample can be determined in a laboratory
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...

 by extraction with a solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

 followed by e.g. gravimetric determination.


Teflon is added to some greases to improve their lubricating properties. Gear greases consist of rosin
.Rosin, also called colophony or Greek pitch , is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components. It is semi-transparent and varies in color from yellow to black...

 oil, thickened with lime
Calcium oxide
Calcium oxide , commonly known as quicklime or burnt lime, is a widely used chemical compound. It is a white, caustic, alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature....

 and mixed with mineral oil, with some percentage of water. Special-purpose greases contain glycerol
Glycerol is a simple polyol compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is widely used in pharmaceutical formulations. Glycerol has three hydroxyl groups that are responsible for its solubility in water and its hygroscopic nature. The glycerol backbone is central to all lipids...

 and sorbitan esters. They are used, for example, in low-temperature conditions. Some greases are labeled "EP", which indicates "extreme pressure". Under high pressure or shock loading, normal grease can be compressed to the extent that the greased parts come into physical contact, causing friction and wear. EP grease contains solid lubricants, usually graphite and/or molybdenum disulfide
Molybdenum disulfide
Molybdenum disulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula MoS2. This black crystalline sulfide of molybdenum occurs as the mineral molybdenite. It is the principal ore from which molybdenum metal is extracted. The natural amorphous form is known as the rarer mineral jordisite. MoS2 is less...

, to provide protection under heavy loadings. The solid lubricants bond to the surface of the metal, and prevent metal-to-metal contact and the resulting friction and wear when the lubricant film gets too thin.

Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 is added to some greases for high pressure applications, or where corrosion could prevent dis-assembly of components later in their service life. Copaslip is the registered trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

 of one such grease produced by Molyslip Atlantic Ltd, and has become a generic term (often misspelled as "copperslip" or "coppaslip") for anti-seize lubricants which contain copper.


Venom from the early Egyptian or Roman eras are thought to have been prepared by combining lime with olive oil
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

. The lime saponifies
Saponification is a process that produces soap, usually from fats and lye. In technical terms, saponification involves base hydrolysis of triglycerides, which are esters of fatty acids, to form the sodium salt of a carboxylate. In addition to soap, such traditional saponification processes...

 some of the triglyceride
A triglyceride is an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. There are many triglycerides, depending on the oil source, some are highly unsaturated, some less so....

 that comprises oil to give a calcium grease. In the middle of the 19th century, soaps were intentionally added as thickeners to oils. Over the centuries, all manner of materials have been employed as greases. For example, black slug
Black slug
The black slug also known as black arion, European black slug, or large black slug, scientific name Arion ater, is a species of large land slug, a terrestrial slug in the family Arionidae, the roundback slugs.-Description:...

s Arion ater were used as axle
An axle is a central shaft for a rotating wheel or gear. On wheeled vehicles, the axle may be fixed to the wheels, rotating with them, or fixed to its surroundings, with the wheels rotating around the axle. In the former case, bearings or bushings are provided at the mounting points where the axle...

-grease to lubricate wooden axle-trees or carts in Sweden.

Silicone grease

Silicone grease
Silicone grease
Silicone grease is a waterproof grease made by combining a silicone oil with a thickener. Most commonly, the silicone oil is polydimethylsiloxane and the thickener is amorphous fumed silica...

 is an amorphous fumed, silica-thickened, polysiloxane-based compound, which can be used to provide lubrication and corrosion resistance. Since it is not oil-based, it is often used where oil-based lubricants would attack rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

 seals. Silicone greases also maintain stability under high temperatures. They are often used, in pure form or mixed with zinc oxide
Zinc oxide
Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound with the formula ZnO. It is a white powder that is insoluble in water. The powder is widely used as an additive into numerous materials and products including plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, rubber , lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesives, sealants,...

, to join heat sink
Heat sink
A heat sink is a term for a component or assembly that transfers heat generated within a solid material to a fluid medium, such as air or a liquid. Examples of heat sinks are the heat exchangers used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems and the radiator in a car...

s to computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

Central processing unit
The central processing unit is the portion of a computer system that carries out the instructions of a computer program, to perform the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system. The CPU plays a role somewhat analogous to the brain in the computer. The term has been in...


Fluoroether-based grease

A fluoropolymer is a fluorocarbon based polymer with multiple strong carbon–fluorine bonds. It is characterized by a high resistance to solvents, acids, and bases.-History:Fluoropolymers were accidentally discovered in 1938 by Dr. Roy J...

s containing C-O-C (ether) bonds for flexibility are soft, and often used as greases in demanding environments due to their inertness. Fomblin by Solvay Solexis and Krytox
Krytox is a trademarked name of a family of high-performance synthetic lubricants with a variety of applications. Invented by researchers at DuPont, it is a colourless polymer containing ether functionality...

 by duPont
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company , commonly referred to as DuPont, is an American chemical company that was founded in July 1802 as a gunpowder mill by Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. DuPont was the world's third largest chemical company based on market capitalization and ninth based on revenue in 2009...

 are prominent examples.

Laboratory grease

Apiezon, silicone-based, and fluoroether-based greases are all used commonly in laboratories for lubricating stopcock
A stopcock is a valve used to restrict or isolate the flow of a liquid or gas through a pipe.In Great Britain a stopcock, not to be confused with a gate valve or a DiCiaccio branch, is used to prevent flow of water into a domestic water system. There are usually two stopcocks for a home...

s and ground glass joints. The grease helps to prevent joints from "freezing", as well as ensuring high vacuum systems are properly sealed. Apiezon or similar hydrocarbon based greases are the cheapest, and most suitable for high vacuum applications. However, they dissolve in many organic solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

s. This quality makes clean-up with pentane
Pentane is an organic compound with the formula C5H12 — that is, an alkane with five carbon atoms. The term may refer to any of three structural isomers, or to a mixture of them: in the IUPAC nomenclature, however, pentane means exclusively the n-pentane isomer; the other two being called...

 or hexanes trivial, but also easily leads to contamination of reaction mixtures.

Silicone-based greases are cheaper than fluoroether-based greases. They are relatively inert and generally do not affect reactions, though reaction mixtures often get contaminated (detected through NMR near δ 0). Silicone-based greases are not easily removed with solvent, but they are removed efficiently by soaking in a base bath.

Fluoroether-based greases are inert to many substances including solvents, acid
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

s, base
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

s, and oxidizers. They are, however, expensive, and are not easily cleaned away.

Water-soluble grease analogs

In some cases, the lubrication and high viscosity of a grease are desired in situations where non-toxic, non-oil based materials are required. Carboxymethyl cellulose
Carboxymethyl cellulose
Carboxymethyl cellulose or cellulose gum is a cellulose derivative with carboxymethyl groups bound to some of the hydroxyl groups of the glucopyranose monomers that make up the cellulose backbone...

, or CMC, is one popular material used to create a water-based analog of greases. CMC serves to both thicken the solution and add a lubricating effect, and often silicone-based lubricants are added for additional lubrication. The most familiar example of this type of lubricant, used as a surgical
Surgical lubricant
Surgical lubricants are substances used by health care providers to provide lubrication and lessen discomfort to the patient during certain medical/surgical procedures such vagina examinations or per rectal examination)....

 and personal lubricant
Personal lubricant
Personal lubricants are specialized lubricants to reduce friction between body parts, or between body parts and other objects...

, is K-Y Jelly
K-Y Jelly
K-Y Jelly is a water-based, water-soluble personal lubricant produced by Johnson & Johnson. According to the company, "The origins of the brand name 'K-Y' are unknown...


See also

  • Bearing (mechanical)
    Bearing (mechanical)
    A bearing is a device to allow constrained relative motion between two or more parts, typically rotation or linear movement. Bearings may be classified broadly according to the motions they allow and according to their principle of operation as well as by the directions of applied loads they can...

  • Dropping point
    Dropping point
    The dropping point of a soap-thickened lubricating grease is the temperature at which it passes from a semi-solid to a liquid state under specific test conditions...

  • Lubricant
    A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between moving surfaces. It may also have the function of transporting foreign particles and of distributing heat...

  • Lubrication
    Lubrication is the process, or technique employed to reduce wear of one or both surfaces in close proximity, and moving relative to each another, by interposing a substance called lubricant between the surfaces to carry or to help carry the load between the opposing surfaces. The interposed...

  • Lubrication theory
    Lubrication theory
    In fluid dynamics, lubrication theory describes the flow of fluids in a geometry in which one dimension is significantly smaller than the others....

  • Mineral oil
    Mineral oil
    A mineral oil is any of various colorless, odorless, light mixtures of alkanes in the C15 to C40 range from a non-vegetable source, particularly a distillate of petroleum....

  • Penetrant
    Penetrating oil
    Penetrating oil, also known as penetrating fluid, is very low-viscosity oil. It can be used to free rusted mechanical parts so that they can be removed, because it can penetrate into the narrow space between the threads of two parts. It can also be used as a general-purpose lubricant, a cleaner,...

  • Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers

External links

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