Herguth Laboratories is offering CircOil, a Thin Layer, Radial, Planar Chromatography analysis tool to monitor used oil.

William R. Herguth, CEO of Herguth Laboratories offers the following explanation of the Science of Thin Layer, Radial, Planar Chromatography:

That's a mouthful of words! Especially for a simple, quick and very effective lube oil analysis tool.

There are many forms of chromatography, but let's look at the name in more detail, as it apply to this technique.

Chromatography is a technique for separating a sample into its constituent components and then measuring or identifying the components in some way. The components to be separated are distributed between two mutually immiscible phases. The heart of any chromatograph is the stationary phase, which is sometimes a solid as in thin layer chromatography. The stationary phase is attached to a support, a solid inert material. The sample is moved across or through the stationary phase. The differences in the chemical and physical properties of the components in the sample are used to bring about the separation and govern the rate of movement (called migration) of the individual components. When a sample component emerges from the chromatograph, it is said to have been eluted. Ideally, components emerge from the system in the order of their increasing interaction with the stationary phase. Separation is obtained when one component is retarded sufficiently to prevent overlap with the peak of an adjacent neighbor.

The term radial refers to the circle formation of sample constitutes after the sample has eluted on chromatography substrate, when left on a horizontal plain. Thus the term; radial planar chromatography.

In thin-layer chromatography. a stationary phase is coated on an inert plate of glass, plastic, or metal. The samples are spotted or placed as streaks on the plate. Development of the chromatogram takes place as the mobile phase percolates through the stationary phase and the spot locations. The sample travels across the plate in the mobile phase, propelled by capillary action. Separation of components occurs through adsorption, partition, exclusion, or ion-exchange processes, or a combination of these.

In planar chromatography, the position of the resultant bands or zones, after development, is observed or detected by appropriate methods. Because of its convenience and simplicity, sharpness of separations, high sensitivity, speed of separation, and ease of recovery of the sample components, planar chromatography finds many applications.

When used as an oil analysis tool various machine and oil combinations will show unique trends during the life of the machine and oil. These characteristics are seen as bands or zones of different colors, densities and even unwanted wear metals and debris.

Ideally, a reference oil is tested to establish a baseline of fresh, clean new oil.

Subsequently, used samples from a machine are spotted on the chromatography substrate at regular, time based intervals. Changes in the appearance of the zones/bands are a clear indication that something has changed in the lubricant.

As with most analytical methods, this method is not a predictor of future performance, rather a measurement of the situation at the time of sampling.

A closer look at the zones, their unique formation, and the debris field contained therein will reveal high particle counts that can be correlated to ISO Code, water contamination and even wear debris. This can be done with the unaided eye if the situation is severe or a 10 power microscope in cleaner systems.

As shown in the gear oil examples the changes in the oil from a clear, clean new oil to a dark oxidized looking used oil were confirmed by sophisticated laboratory analysis methods. In fact the level of oxidation of the #1 sample was not detected by the acid number, but was suspect in the chromatogram and confirmed by the Infrared analysis as having higher oxidation products than the fresh oil.

The gear oils show ever increasing signs of oxidation as the color of the center zone and the density of the dark outer zone indicate. The acid numbers and Fourier Transform Infrared Analysis (FTIR) correspond to the results. In this case there was an additional sample that came in with this set and is shown after the FTIR scans. It was obvious this was not the same oil and the FTIR and Inductively Couple Plasma Spectrometer (ICP) confirmed the results.

Oil Analysis

Numerous industry sources have noted that a very large percent of all machine problems are lubricant related and that an equal number of problems are due to contamination of the lubricant. This combined total is in the 60% to 65% range. This being the case, the method of analysis described here can make a huge and immediate impact of the cost of oil analysis, maintenance, oil changes and overall operational costs.


One simply has to establish a baseline of new oils for each machine, spot the machines lubricant on a regular basis and look for changes in the results. When changes are observed further laboratory analysis may be warranted to further understand the source of the abnormal observation. Once this is done, it may not be necessary to send laboratory samples out again for this machine and lubricant combination, simple record the finding and use your plants, Thin Layer, Radial, Planar Chromatography analysis tool to monitor the equipment.

Terrence O'Hanlon

Terrence O’Hanlon, CMRP, and CEO of Reliabilityweb.com® and Publisher for Uptime® Magazine, is an asset management leader, specializing in reliability and operational excellence. He is a popular keynote presenter and is the coauthor of the book, 10 Rights of Asset Management: Achieve Reliability, Asset Performance and Operational Excellence. www.reliabilityweb.com

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