The condition of lubricating oil used in automotive and industrial gearboxes must be controlled in order to guarantee optimum performance and prevent damage to machinery parts. In normal practice, this is done by regular oil change intervals and routine laboratory analysis, both of which involve considerable operating costs. In this paper, we present a compact and robust optical sensor that can be installed in the lubrication circuit to provide quasi-continuous information about the condition of the oil. The measuring principle is based on non-dispersive infrared spectroscopy. The implemented sensor setup consists of an optical measurement cell, two thin-film infrared emitters, and two four-channel pyroelectric detectors equipped with optical bandpass filters. We present a method based on multivariate partial least squares regression to select appropriate optical bandpass filters for monitoring the oxidation, water content, and acid number of the oil. We perform a ray tracing analysis to analyze and correct the influence of the light path in the optical setup on the optical parameters of the bandpass filters. The measurement values acquired with the sensor for three different gearbox oil types show high correlation with laboratory reference data for the oxidation, water content, and acid number. The presented sensor can thus be a useful supplementary tool for the online condition monitoring of lubricants when integrated into a gearbox oil circuit.
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