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Lubricants, such as oils or greases, can be produced petrochemically (from crude oil or natural gas) or from renewable raw materials. If vegetable oils or animal fats form the basis of a lubricant, they are called biogenic. In Germany, rapeseed oil is often used for this purpose. Methods used in archaeometry can be used to determine the origin of lubricants. The 14C dating method can be used to determine to what extent the carbon in a lubricant is of petrochemical or biogenic origin. Due to its age (the age of the oil from which the raw material originates is several million years old) petrochemical material contains carbon that does not contain 14C. Biogenic material has the 14C carbon signature of the corresponding growth year of the plant or animal. In our 14C laboratory the biogenic fraction is determined according to ASTM-D 6866 and EN 16640:2017, respectively.

Sample properties

For the determination of the biogenic portion:

Liquids: 0.1 ml (typically, sample quantities of a few ml are sent to us)

solids: 5-10 mg

If the material to be tested consists of a mixture of biogenic and petrochemical starting materials, it must be ensured that the sample is representative of the material to be tested. It may need to be homogenised. Ideally, the total carbon content is known and can be communicated to the laboratory in advance.