Heat retention properties of mineral oil

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Heat retention properties of mineral oil
Mineral oil is a common by-product of oil refinement. (Oilfield Pump Jack in Texas Oil Patch image by Doodlebugs from Fotolia.com)

Mineral oils are petroleum distillates that are a by-product of oil refining. They are largely made up of alkanes and paraffin compounds. While there are several grades and weights of mineral oil, most mineral oils have a density of about 0.8 grams per cubic centimetre (1/2 oz per cubic inch) making them less dense than water. Mineral oil, like any liquid, has a number of thermal and heat retention properties. Mineral oil is used because of its broad liquid range and low price.

Freezing & viscosity temperature ranges

Most mineral oils have a freezing point that ranges from minus 22 degrees C to about minus 35 degrees C (minus 7.6 degrees F to -31 degrees F). Long before it freezes, mineral oil becomes very viscous -- at room temperature, light mineral oil is slightly more viscous than water; at 0 degrees C (32 degrees F), it has a consistency not unlike pancake syrup. The density and high viscosity of mineral oil make it a useful component for certain types of active cooling systems. The mineral oil is run through a condenser to chill it, and then forced through thin tubes to pick up heat to transfer away from a hot point.

Specific heat capacity

Specific heat capacity is a measure of how much energy it takes to increase the temperature of 1 gram (0.35 oz) of a sample by 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F). This is used in engineering to determine how effective a fluid is as a heat-transfer medium. Water, for example, has a heat transfer capacity of 1 calorie per gram raised 1 degree C, or 4.186 joules per gram per degree C of temperature change. In comparison, the specific heat capacity of mineral oil is 1.67 joules per gram raised 1 degree C. A joule is a unit of energy. This is 0.4 calories per degree of temperature change.

Boiling temperature and liquid range

Mineral oil will boil (depending on the grade) at temperatures from 173 degrees C to 177 degrees C (343 degrees F to 350 degrees F). The commonly used flash point is 175 degrees C (347 degrees F), which is the temperature where newly introduced liquid mineral oil will vaporise on contact with a surface. Because mineral oil remains liquid at lower temperatures, albeit with increasing viscosity, and remains liquid at higher temperatures than water, mineral oil's heat retention and thermal properties make it broadly used as the basis for most industrial and machine lubricants.

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