Getting down and dirty with pump basics
Feb 10, 2015
Pumps are the backbone of fluid physics. That's a big statement, but consider the history of the pump. Each development in the evolution of the device can be traced back to an era where mankind needed an inventive boost, one on the same level as the wheel and mastery of fire. Remember, the age of the pump enabled the Egyptians and the early Greeks to flourish as fields were irrigated with these early contraptions. Unlike many other inventions, the hissing steam engine and the clicking telegraph among them, the pump stubbornly remains at the forefront of technology. But what defines the modern pump? What are the components and principles being put into action within each device?
First of all, a pump is designed to shift fluids, semi-fluids, and gases through pipes and special channels. These materials are quick to deform, although the viscosity of a substance will obviously affect its flow characteristics. Semi-fluids include the slurries and fine particles that possess similar deformation characteristics to a low-viscosity fluid.
The pump dynamically offsets obstacles, negating gravity and the other inflexible forces of nature that prefer fluids stay at rest. In demonstrating the principle, a force, typically generated by electricity or steam, is transmitted to a mechanical assembly, but it's the next stage where history and pioneering engineering principles step forward. Engineering harnesses the kinetic energy, translating it into a form that relates most efficiently to fluid dynamics. Let's look closer at these evolved pumps.
An impeller, a rotor equipped with blades, is rotated at high velocity to create kinetic force. This rotational vector exchanges energy with the fluid, capturing the flow and whisking it forward. Typically uses include in-line or submerged electric pumps for plumbing applications.
Positive Displacement Pump
As the label implies, fluid is displaced and the physics of the matter demands more fluid to replace the void. In short, a vacuum is generated and fluid moves into the empty space. These pumps have been in use far longer than their centrifugal cousins. Early industry used positive displacement in an axial piston form to create mechanical motion from high-pressure steam. More basic application include the handy water pump used on every farm for the last century.
Whether born of the age of the Egyptians or the age of steam and electricity, pumps commit to the same action, that of translating kinetic energy into a fluidic force.
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