Aircraft Lubrication and Engine Cooling Systems

Lubricant plays an important role in preventing unnecessary wear and tear of important aircraft components. In machinery as complex as aircraft engines, friction between moving parts can quickly become detrimental. Lubricant’s role is to form an oil film over metal surfaces so that metallic friction is replaced by fluid friction of the lubricant. Oil is pumped throughout the engine to any area where friction occurs. The process of moving oil around takes energy and creates hear, but the reduction of friction resulting from the process is beneficial to the engine overall.

Engines are exposed to many types of friction. When one surface slides over another, it is referred to as sliding friction, and is a result of the use of plain bearings. Sliding friction is caused by microscopic imperfections on the surfaces. A perfectly smooth surface would not create friction, even without lubricant. Another type of friction, rolling friction, is the result of a roller or spherical figure rolling over another surface, as happens with ball bearings or roller bearings. A third type of friction, wiping friction, occurs between the teeth of gears. Pressure caused by this type of friction can be very light or very extreme, so lubrication is crucial to withstand the force.

Just as important as friction reduction is maintaining a cool engine. Excessive heat will hinder both reciprocating and turbine engines, so an engine cooling system must be put in place. Aircraft cooling systems are designed to reduce and control the temperature of the engine, and do so through a variety of means such as air cooling, cowl flaps, liquid cooling, and radiators. Air cooling is as simple as it sounds. Many engines have their cylinders exposed to the airflow creating an even temperature distribution. Airflow is sometimes controlled by cowl flaps, flaps that open and close to control the amount of air entering the engine. Liquid cooling adds weight, but also provides the advantage of more even temperature throughout each of the engine cylinders. 


January 18, 2021

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