Why this cutting-edge technology is quickly becoming the go-to method
When it comes to determining particle counts in lubricants, there are a few methods available, including pore blockage and optical particle counters. While both methods have their advantages, laser-imaging optical particle counting using LaserNet Fines is quickly becoming the go-to technology for many industry professionals due to its superior accuracy and efficiency.
Pore Blockage Technology
Pore blockage particle counting involves filtering a sample of lubricant through a membrane with tiny pores of a pre-determined size. The particles in the lubricant get trapped in the pores, increasing the pressure differential across the membrane. The pressure differential is used to extrapolate the number of particles trapped in the membrane. This method is limited by the size of the pores in the membrane, as particulate that is too small may pass through the pores.
While pore blockage is a prevalent method, it can be misleading since pore blockage instruments use an algorithm to estimate the number of particulate present. This can be most detrimental in low viscosity fluids as most instruments utilize membranes with pores 10 microns in size which means that enough large particulate must be present to capture smaller particulate, potentially leading to a skewed representation of small particulate which is most detrimental in those systems. If any insoluble additives are present as they may stick to the membrane and interfere with the flow of the lubricant which can also impact the results. Since viscosity impacts the flow of lubricant, changing the viscosity of the lubricant may impact the results. These factors demonstrate the need for a more advanced method which can count individual particles present in the oil.
Optical Particle Counting: LaserNet Fines Technology
This is where LaserNet Fines comes in. This cutting-edge technology uses a laser to illuminate the sample, allowing for the detection of individual particles and the measurement of their size and shape down to 4 microns. It is a much more precise method compared to pore blockage, and unlike older white-light optical particle counters, lasers produce a more intense beam of light which creates a more defined shadow which increases the accuracy and precision of this instrument.
By counting individual particles, a laser particle counter is not dependent on the presence of larger contaminants to accurately portray the number of small particulates in a sample. This can be extremely valuable in large hydraulic systems where a secondary indicator of varnish formation can be large quantities of small particulate. This means that you get a more comprehensive analysis of your lubricant's condition, which allows you to act before major issues arise.
Sludge and varnish aren’t the only contaminants that can be detected more easily using a LaserNet Fines. Glycol contamination from coolants, or other fluid contaminants will show up as elevated particle counts indicating a contaminated condition for the fluid. This can be critical for the many substances that cannot be detected in elemental analysis but can impact the lubricant’s ability to protect components.
A minor drawback to the optical method is that air and water bubbles can be misinterpreted as contamination under 21 microns in size. Well-trained lab technicians help combat this problem by sonicating samples prior to running them on the instrument to eliminate air bubbles, and experienced analysts will know to adjust ratings or provide cautionary statements when water is present in the oil. Not only are these precautions taken, but the final benefit of utilizing a Laser Net Fines is that images of each particle are captured by the instrument and can be reviewed to determine the source of particulate. At the end of the day any of these conditions should still prompt a closer look at the condition of the oil, making this drawback a potential point in the favor of the LaserNet Fines instrument.
While pore blockage is a well-established method for determining particle counts, LaserNet Fines offers a more accurate, and more comprehensive analysis of your lubricants. It is a cutting-edge technology that is quickly becoming the industry standard, and for good reason. If you want to stay ahead of the game, it's time to upgrade to LaserNet Fines and get a clearer picture of your lubricant's health.