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A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between surfaces in mutual contact, which ultimately reduces the heat generated when the surfaces move. It may also have the function of transmitting forces, transporting foreign particles, or heating or cooling the surfaces. The property of reducing friction is known as lubricity.

In addition to industrial applications, lubricants are used for many other purposes. Other uses include cooking (oils and fats in use in frying pans, in baking to prevent food sticking), bio-medical applications on humans (e.g. lubricants for artificial joints), ultrasound examination, medical examinations, and the use of personal lubricant for sexual purposes.

A good lubricant generally possesses the following characteristics:

Typically lubricants contain 90% base oil (most often petroleum fractions, called mineral oils) and less than 10% additives. Vegetable oils or synthetic liquids such as hydrogenated polyolefins, esters, silicones, fluorocarbons and many others are sometimes used as base oils. Additives deliver reduced friction and wear, increased viscosity, improved viscosity index, resistance to corrosion and oxidation, aging or contamination, etc.

Non-liquid lubricants include grease, powders (dry graphite, PTFE, molybdenum disulphide, tungsten disulphide, etc.), PTFE tape used in plumbing, air cushion and others. Dry lubricants such as graphite, molybdenum disulphide and tungsten disulphide also offer lubrication at temperatures (up to 350 °C) higher than liquid and oil-based lubricants are able to operate. Limited interest has been shown in low friction properties of compacted oxide glaze layers formed at several hundred degrees Celsius in metallic sliding systems, however, practical use is still many years away due to their physically unstable nature.


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