The Difference Between Antiwear and Extreme Pressure Additives

The terms antiwear additives and extreme pressure additives are often used interchangeably, suggesting that they provide the same functions in a lubricant. This is not exactly true. While there are many similarities in how they function, both additives have distinct functions in protecting lubricants.

Both are film-forming additives (Bruce, 2012). Their functions are to reduce wear between two contacting surfaces or reduce friction to lower the heat produced between the two rubbing surfaces.

They can also be classified as boundary additives that can be temperature-dependent (EP additives) or non-temperature-dependent (Antiwear additives). They both function to mitigate against wear, which is usually caused during boundary lubrication where higher speeds, loads, or temperatures can cause contact with the asperities.

One of the significant differences, as noted by Mang & Dresel, 2007 is that antiwear additives are designed to reduce wear when the system is exposed to moderate stress. On the other hand, EP additives are much more reactive. These are used when the system’s stress is very high to prevent the welding of moving parts.

According to (Bruce, 2012), there are four main groups of commercially available EP additives based on the structures containing phosphorus, sulphur, chlorine, and overbased sulfonates. He explains that the phosphorus, sulphur, and chlorine-containing EP additives are activated by heat over a range of temperatures.

For instance, chlorine-containing EP additives are usually activated between 180-240°C, phosphorus-containing additives are activated at higher temperatures, and sulphur-containing additives operate at 600-1,000°C.

On the other hand, overbased sulfonates contain a colloidal carbonate that reacts with iron to form a thin-film barrier layer between tribocontacts. This protects the surface from direct contact and welding.

As we can see, antiwear and EP additives protect the surfaces between which the lubricant exists. However, they are activated differently and subsequently perform two different functions.

Antiwear additives protect against wear and are not temperature dependent, while EP additives are activated by high stress to prevent the welding of moving parts.

Both functions are essential to protecting the system from additional wear and ensuring it remains operational.


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