Tribology Letters

, 22:53 | Cite as

The effect of emulsifier concentration on the lubricating properties of oil-in-water emulsions

  • A. Cambiella
  • J. M. Benito
  • C. Pazos
  • J. Coca
  • M. Ratoi
  • H. A. Spikes


Although the use of oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions as metalworking fluids is widespread, the mechanisms of emulsion lubrication are not yet well understood. Several theories have been proposed but there is not a clear agreement about the effect of different operating conditions and emulsion properties on the lubricating performance of O/W emulsions. In the present study, the film forming ability of O/W emulsions as a function of emulsifier concentration is studied. The emulsifier content exerts a strong influence on all the emulsion properties, such as stability, droplet size distribution, surface and interfacial tension, wetting ability, etc., as well as on the lubricating behaviour, so it has been used to ascertain the relationship between all the properties involved. Three different emulsifiers—anionic, nonionic and cationic—were used at different concentrations in the design of lubricant O/W emulsions. Experimental results show that the work of adhesion of oil droplets on the metal surface is a valuable parameter to predict the ability of emulsions to form thick films in elastohydrodynamic (EHD) contacts. The influence of pH value of O/W emulsions on their lubricating behaviour is also verified. The overall conclusion is that the interactions between metal and oil droplets rule the mechanism of lubrication and that this interaction is primarily controlled by emulsifier concentration.


emulsifiers water-based metalworking fluids elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHL) rolling 



One of the authors (A. Cambiella) was the recipient of a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Programa de Formación de Profesorado Universitario (FPU Programme, MEC, Spain). Financial support by the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (MEC, Spain) and the European Commission (project Ref.: PPQ2001-3442-C02-01, European Regional Development Fund) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cambiella
    • 1
  • J. M. Benito
    • 1
  • C. Pazos
    • 1
  • J. Coca
    • 1
  • M. Ratoi
    • 2
  • H. A. Spikes
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of OviedoOviedoSpain
  2. 2.Tribology Section, Department of Mechanical EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK

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