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Introduction of any of various substances between sliding surfaces to reduce wear and friction. Lubricants may secondarily control corrosion, regulate temperature, electrically insulate, remove contaminants, or damp shock. Prehistoric peoples used mud and reeds to lubricate sledges, timbers, or rocks. Animal fat lubricated the axles of the first wagons and continued in wide use until crude oil became the chief source of lubricants. Crude oil has been the basis of products designed for the specific lubricating needs of automobiles, aircraft, locomotives, turbojets, and all other power machinery. There are three basic varieties of lubrication: fluid-film (in which a fluid film completely separates sliding surfaces), boundary (in which the friction between surfaces is determined by the properties of the surfaces and properties of the lubricant other than viscosity), and solid (used when liquid lubricants lack adequate resistance to load or temperature extremes). The principal lubricants are liquid, oily materials (petroleum-based or synthetic, and including greases); solids (such as graphite, molybdenum disulfide, soft metals, waxes, and plastics); and gases.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lubrication, visit Britannica.com.