Spectro Scientific Blog

John Morgan

Recent Posts

Infrared Analysis Reduces Regulatory Fats, Oil and Grease (FOG) Testing Costs and Provides Fast Results

Posted by John Morgan on June 06, 2017

With over 4,000 oil and grease monitors in world-wide use today, InfraCal 2 Analyzers, originally developed by Wilks, have become a standard for the petrochemical and environmental industries.  Wastewater professionals need a fast, rugged, easy to use option for monitoring wastewater discharge that doesn't cost them a fortune. This video shows how easy the InfraCal is to use. 

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Ferrous Wear Metal Measurement Made Easy with the FerroCheck

Posted by John Morgan on April 07, 2017

Historically, one of the most cost-effective indicators of machinery health has been the analysis of ferrous debris in oil. Such analysis utilizes the ferromagnetic properties of generated debris to perform the analysis. Since nearly all wear debris contains ferrous material (in particular iron), an abnormal increase in the amount of debris can be directly correlated to abnormal machinery conditions in the vast majority of cases. One type of ferrous debris analyzer is the magnetometer. The device works by sensing the disruption of a magnetic field that is generated due to the presence of magnetic particulates in the oil. Since the ferromagnetic properties of iron are well-known, the amount of disruption may be directly quantified to a certain amount (ppm) of iron. Devices such as the FerroCheck operate on this principle.

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Introduction to Ferrography

Posted by John Morgan on March 23, 2017

The ferrography technique was developed in the 1970s to overcome the large particle detection deficiencies of spectrometric oil analysis. It is a technique used for the separation of particles from fluids for microscopic examination and subsequent analysis. The name ferrography derives from the initial development of the methods to precipitate ferrous wear particles from engine lubricating oil. The original analytical ferrograph used a strong magnetic field gradient to separate wear particles from the used oil sample for subsequent microscope examination.

Figure 1: Example of a Ferrogram. On the lower right is an image
of the Spectro Scientific Thistle Tube Ferrography Lab including
ferrography slide maker, microscope and wear particle atlas (WPA)
software with reference pictures.

Since that time, a number of different instruments have been introduced such as the rotary particle depositor which also separates wear particles for microscopic examination along with other instruments which quantify the amount of ferrous wear debris in an oil sample. The primary instrument in ferrography is the analytical ferrograph which is used to prepare a ferrogram. A non-wetting barrier is painted on one surface of a microscope slide. This coating traps the fluid delivered by a peristaltic pump. In use, the slide is mounted at a slight horizontal angle, permitting the fluid to flow by gravity along the glass but within the barrier, where it finally is picked up by a drain tube.

The slide is mounted above two permanent magnets which are separated by an aluminum sheet. The poles of the magnets are counter posed. That is, where one magnet pole is considered north, the pole of the other magnet across the aluminum strip is south. Positioning the magnets in this way causes a strong magnetic field gradient to be created in the vertical direction above the aluminum strip. Magnetic particles in the fluid experience a strong downward force. These particles migrate through the fluid down to the glass surface, where they are deposited in strings perpendicular to the direction of fluid flow (Figure 1).

After all the fluid in a given sample has run across the slide, a fixer solution is passed over the slide to remove residual fluid. When the fixer has evaporated, the slide is ready for observation using the microscope. Ferrous particles are deposited on the slide according to size. The force acting on a particle is proportional to volume, but the viscous resistance of the suspending fluid is proportional to surface area. Therefore, for spheres, force increases with the cube of the diameter (volume) but resistance increases only with the square of the diameter (contact surface) [1].

The largest ferrous particles, therefore, are deposited at the entry region of the slide where the lubricating oil first touches down on the glass surface. At a position farther along the slide, all ferrous particles larger than a characteristic size already will have been precipitated. For non-ferrous particles, such as aluminum, brass, white metal, etc., precipitation will often occur because these materials are weakly magnetic. However, the deposition of these materials will be less size-selective. Consequently, large particles of nonferrous metal may be found anywhere along the length of the slide as also shown in Figure 1.

Figure 2: Example of cutting wear, severe sliding wear and
fatigue wear

Examination of the slide in a bichromatic microscope reveals details of size, shape, and number of particles. From this information the condition of oil-lubricated parts may be assessed [2]. Machines operating normally usually generate small flat particles at a slow steady rate. If the number of particles increases, and particularly if the ratio of large to small particles increases, we have an indication that a more severe mode of wear has begun. The generation of large severe wear particles signals the imminent failure of the wearing surface.

Different wear mechanisms each generate characteristic particles. Six regimes of wear have been identified with sliding wear. Miscellaneous shaped particles are associated with break-in wear. Small platelets are associated with normal rubbing wear. As operating parameters become more arduous, the metallic rubbing wear particles increase in size and become oxidized. Finally, just prior to failure, large, metallic, severe wear particles are produced.

Abrasive wear, analogous to a crude machining process, generates particles in the form of loops, spirals, and bent wires. Increase in the number and size of these particles shows that an abrasive wear mechanism is progressing rapidly.

In addition, two types of particles are associated with rolling mechanisms. These are fatigue chunks and laminar particles. Fatigue chunks represent material removed as rolling elements spall. Laminar particles, which are large, thin plates, result from material being passed through the rolling contact. Combined rolling and sliding, as in gears, produces scuffing particles and fatigue chunks. Determination of the composition of particles can establish their origin. The site of deposition, reflectivity, and color of particles aid in their identification. Figure 2 shows examples of abrasive wear, sliding wear and fatigue wear.

Ferrography can be useful to detect situations that are not obvious, such as water in oil as described below:

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Intellectual Property at Spectro Scientific

Posted by John Morgan on August 09, 2016

Not only was Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the United States of America, but he was also a patent attorney and a patent holder. Lincoln holds US patent #6,469 "Buoying Vessels Over Shoals". This patent describes a method of increasing the buoyancy of vessels through the use of inflatable bladders to guide them over, or free them from shoals or shallow waters.

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Our Q2 Newsletter

Posted by John Morgan on May 12, 2016

Welcome to the second edition of Specto Scientific's quarterly newsletter, The Monitor. In this newsletter we will present a variety of topics for our valued customers, partners and prospects. Content will range from industry trends and application solutions to case studies and e-guides. We'd love to hear your ideas for making this communication a useful and meaningful tool. If you have a success story you'd like to share, or a topic you'd like to read about in future issues, please let us know. Happy Monitoring!!


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Topics: How to

Mining Company Prevents Four Engine Failures Using On-site Oil Analysis

Posted by John Morgan on March 22, 2016

Learn how a gold mine saved more than $1 million in repair costs and lost operating time using an on-site Industrial Tribology Lab (ITL) for predictive maintenance. 

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Topics: Fleets

Emulsion Breaking Techniques for Oil in Water Solvent Extractions

Posted by John Morgan on March 10, 2016

Certain types of samples, such as those containing detergent, may form emulsions when doing an oil in water extraction into a solvent. The boundary between the solvent and the sample will have an emulsion layer that has a cloudy or milky appearance as shown in this photo.

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The Monitor, Q1 Newsletter

Posted by John Morgan on March 01, 2016
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Topics: Industrial, Case Study, Fleets

ASTM Award of Excellence Presented to Patrick Henning

Posted by John Morgan on January 28, 2016

The ASTM International Committee D02.96 on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants recently presented their Award of Excellence to Spectro Scientific's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Patrick Henning. 

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Maintenance Savings for Fleets

Posted by John Morgan on December 09, 2015

Maintaining a fleet of vehicles can be very costly, particularly if that fleet works under difficult conditions, such as a fleet of mining vehicles or a fleet of municipal buses and trucks. Fleet managers are on the lookout for any cost savings they can find. Oil analysis is one area that can offer significant savings and greatly improve workflow in the garage. We've created a savings calculator to estimate how much money a fleet could save by doing oil analysis in house. 

There are three main areas of savings available to fleet maintenance managers:

  • Savings on used oil analysis
  • Savings from extending oil drain intervals
  • Savings from early diagnosis of problems
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Topics: Fleets