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SECTOR FOCUS: AUTOMOTIVE PCEO


Synthetic Motor Oils The Rise of


Dr Raj Shah, Director at Koehler Instrument Company and Mark Nyholm, Technical Manager, Heavy Duty Oils and R&D, AMSOIL


The lubrication world as we know it is in a perpetual cycle of change in order to provide our applications with improved protection, better cleanliness and longer periods between maintenance. For us to enjoy the benefits of all of this, lubricant formulas are changing. Mineral (or conventional) oils that we associate with oil derricks pumping crude oil from the ground in places like Texas or Saudi Arabia and synthetic oils are different to one another. Oil companies have their own top-secret proprietary process for manufacturing their oils, which they’re loath to discuss, with secrets never being shared. While conventional and synthetic oils of the same viscosity may appear identical right out of the bottle, engine oil drained from a pair of vehicles at the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) change interval would show the performance differences between the two.


Despite only entering widespread use in the latter half of the 20th century, synthetic oils are not a new phenomenon. Amoco began selling an early version of synthetic oil as early as 1929. Larger scale development of synthetic lubricants, however, didn’t begin until the 1930s when German researcher


10 LUBE MAGAZINE NO.155 FEBRUARY 2020


Dr. Hermann Zorn began searching for a lubricant that maintained the properties of natural oil but removed all the negative attributes. During World War II, the Germans worked on developing synthetic oil when their crude oil supply was severely limited by the Allied forces. By the 1940s, Dr. Zorn had developed more than 3,500 different blends, such as polyolesters and diesters. These early synthetics were used during the War by both Germany and the U.S. in their aircraft engines. Synthetic oil reduced deposits and were much more effective in colder climates than crude-oil lubricants.


American fighter aircraft Vought F4U Corsair


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