Elemental analysis is a powerful oil analysis technique. Determining the concentrations of wear metals, contaminants, and additives will provide valuable knowledge about your lubricant and your equipment. Element analysis should be part of your normal testing regimen.
Three categories typically used for element analysis are:
Wear metals are generated from the operation of the equipment. Increases in wear metals can indicate equipment is in an active wear state. The amount of increase can be an indication about the severity of wear. Tracking and trending the changes over time will allow you to catch problems before they become catastrophic. Typical elements looked at include iron, chromium, aluminum, copper, lead, tin, silver, and nickel.
Contamination can severely harm your lubricants and your equipment. Properly monitoring contamination elements will help ensure your equipment is not compromised. Typical elements looked at include silicon, sodium, and boron.
Additive levels will deplete over time. Monitoring additive levels and their changes is critical to your oil analysis program. Lubricant contamination and lubricant formulation changes can also be detected by monitoring additive levels. Typical elements looked at include magnesium, calcium, barium, phosphorous, and zinc.