Lubricants can be classified by their origin—animal (e.g., sperm oil, goose grease), vegetable (e.g., soybean oil, linseed oil), or mineral (e.g., petroleum, molybdenum sulfide). From ancient times until the late 19th cent. lubricants were obtained from vegetable oils or animal fats and oils. Today most are derived from mineral oils, such as petroleum and shale oil, which can be distilled and condensed without decomposition. Synthetic lubricants, such as silicones, are of great value in applications involving extreme temperatures. In certain types of high-speed machinery films of gas under pressure have been successfully used as lubricants.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.