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History of Lubrication

The importance of friction and resistance movement has been highly recognized by our civilization. We show here, from where arose the necessity and importance of lubrication.

...It all started in ancient Egypt, with the need to "carry" colossus and blocks for the construction of Sphinxes and Pyramids. As the lubrication was unknown, the Egyptians slaves used branches of trees to drag and pull sleds with approximately 60 tons of blocks.

The function of tree branches (rollers), was to reduce the sliding friction between the sled and the ground, transforming them into rolling friction.

2600 B.C

The first trace of lubrication was found in the sled wheel that belonged to Ra-At-Ka (King of Egypt), proved by analysis that the lubricant was beef or ram tallow.
After this discovery, it was concluded that in ancient Egypt the tallow was used as lubricant under the sleds to facilitate sliding.

777 B.C – 393 A.C

At this time Greece celebrated the first Olympic Games, a tradition that continued every four years. One of the modalities of the Olympics was the chariot race, which also had the axles lubricated by animal fat.

200 A.C

At this time, the Romans also used the chariots as transportation, which were also lubricated by animal fat.

5th to 10th Century

In the Middle Ages animal fat was used sparingly to lubricate the mechanism for opening the gates of castles and on carriages wheels carrying kings and queens.

8th Century

At the end of this century, in Norway, year 780, the Vikings Warriors and Maritimes Adventurers were experts in building boats. They built the first and improved Drakkars - long sailing boats. For a long time, whale oil is been used to lubricate the sails hinge support and the rudder axis.

15th Century

In the begining of the great commercial navigation, whale oil was also used to lubricate the pulleys and rudders of ships.
The Oil, mineral existing for about 300 million years, provided in the Antiquity medicinal purposes and later started to be used in lubrication. It was known as "rock oil, mineral oil and naphtha oil."

16th Century

With the invention of gadgets, the need of lubricating using oil for its perfect functioning emerged.

17th and 18th Century

With the civilization development and inventions even more revolutionaries, we highlight one of the greatest inventors, Leonardo da Vinci, who designed large projects that also contributed to the advance of lubrication, as the catapults, excavator, among many others .

18th Century

The phenomenon of the Industrial Revolution led to the mechanization of industry and transport. With the growth of textile machinery was used lubricant for the smooth functioning of the machines.

19th Century

In this century, Pennsylvania (USA) 3 important events occurred:
1) In 1859, a former American train driver, Edwin Drake, drilled the 1st oil well with 21 meters deep. Thus, it was extracted approximately 3200 liters of oil per day.
2) The need arose to lubricate the bearings of the trains, every 160km.
3) With the innovations of machinery, lubrication went from sporadic to necessary.
After 5 years of Edwin Drake discovery , 543 companies dedicated to the extraction of oil.

20th Century

At this time, with the 2nd World War and the need for more powerful machines and cannons, the lubricant was used in astonishing quantities. With the revolution several equipment emerged with the need of lubrication. As well as the equipment, new lubricants arise with the objective of minimizing the friction and prolong the life of equipment.

Lubrication nowadays


As well as the machines, lubricants suffered technological changes to meet the extreme requirements in industrial processes.

Today, there are several companies in the market that manufacture various types of lubricants with mineral, synthetic and special origin. Besides having a wide use, the lubricant has a correct method of applications. For this, there are equipment for lubrication, available in Brazil since 1950, which are of fundamental use and also minimize the risk of lubricants contamination.

With the global concern for the environment, various studies and researches for lubricants that could be used without harming nature were made.

For this, there is rerrefinação lubricant used and the "green oil" which is biodegradable plant and an option to users to avoid more damage to the environment.

Currently, the lubrication is a decisive factor in the power of being a source of competitiveness gains, providing improvements in equipment performance, and especially the reduction in maintenance costs.

Research source:


CARRETEIRO, Ronald P. & MOURA, Carlos R. S. Lubrificantes e Lubrificação. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Makron Books.
CLAUDINO, João B. Motores Diesel Comerciais no Brasil e no Meio Ambiente. São Paulo: Editora Núcleo.
Apostila de Tribologia. Escola de Engenharia de São Carlos
Department of Mechanical Engineering
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