What is the difference between synthetic and conventional oil?
Answer: Motor oil, whether synthetic or petroleum-based, consists of molecular chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms, referred to as hydrocarbons. Petroleum crude oil is a thick, highly flammable dark-brown or greenish liquid with high energy density. Many contaminating elements exist in this complex mixture of hydrocarbons, including sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen and metal components such as nickel or vanadium. Petroleum crude oil is the raw material used for a wide variety of petrochemicals, including solvents, fertilizers, plastics and lubricants.
The oil refining process separates the various types of molecules in the oil by weight, resulting in a concentrated batch suitable for manufacturing products such as gasoline, LPG, kerosene or lubricant base oils. The chemical composition of conventional motor oil can vary substantially depending on the raw crude oil refining process.
While petroleum base oils are refined, synthetic base oils are manufactured and can achieve a higher performance level. Synthetic oil is chemically engineered for a certain molecular composition with a tailored and uniform structure. Such fine-tuned control over the final molecular composition of synthetic oils is the key to their superior performance properties. Designing molecular structures in a planned and orderly fashion results in molecules, and end-products, that are far more stable than their refined petroleum counterparts.
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Synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made (synthesized). Synthetic lubricants can be manufactured using chemically modified petroleum components rather than whole crude oil, but can also be synthesized from other raw materials. Synthetic oil is used as a substitute for lubricant refined from petroleum when operating in extremes of temperature, because, in general, it provides superior mechanical and chemical properties than those found in traditional mineral oils. Aircraft jet engines, for example, require the use of synthetic oils, whereas aircraft piston engines do not.