What is a hydraulic pump?

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A pump is any device used to move gases or liquids, usually from a low to a higher location. Many pumps require an external power source to operate, but hydraulic pumps do not need an external power source. In a hydraulic pump, water or other fluid is put to work to pump itself. In other words, the kinetic energy of water is the force that drives a hydraulic pump.

When this type of pump operates, some of the water is lifted to a point higher than where the water originally started. Also, the water leaving the pump is moving at a different rate than the incoming water. This happens as a result of a phenomenon called stagnation pressure. Stagnation pressure is based on Bernoulli’s principle, which states that an increase in the velocity of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in the pressure of the fluid. It is on this principle that the operation of a hydraulic pump is based.

A simple hydraulic pump starts with a pipe that brings water from the source. At the very end of the tube is a valve, called the waste valve. When under pressure, the dump valve closes, drawing back the water pressure against another valve further back, called the delivery check valve. This valve leads to the outlet or distribution pipe. When the water pressure in the delivery tube drops, the delivery check valve closes, allowing pressure to build up against the waste valve once more.

This cycle usually repeats every one or two seconds. The process becomes more efficient with the addition of a device called a pressure vessel between the delivery check valve and the delivery tube outlet. A pressure vessel is a small metal tank that contains a portion of air. The air acts as a cushion from the stresses of rapid pressure changes within the pump, also helping to prolong the life of the pump itself.

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The hydraulic pump has been in use for centuries but began to fall out of favor when electricity and electric pumps became widely available. More recently, however, there has been renewed interest in the hydraulic pump as a way to bring clean water to rural areas of developing countries. Hydraulic pumps are simple enough to maintain even in the most remote villages. They also provide the advantage of bringing in deep sources of groundwater that are less likely to be contaminated. Sanitation and water availability are constant concerns in developing countries, and the hydraulic pump helps to alleviate both of these problems.

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