How Hydraulic Technology has Changed the World

Human beings have always had a relationship with water, after all it sustains life. However, what you probably didn’t realise that apart from drinking it, we have also been using it as a tool as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians.

Back then, people constructed canals in order to irrigate their crops, for defence and to transport themselves. It wasn’t until hydraulics (which is the science that deals with the physical laws of water) came along that we started to seriously harness the power of water.

In this blog, we are briefly going to look at how the power of water has revolutionised the world and has become the driving force (quite literally) behind the industrial, agricultural and defence sectors.

The origin of hydraulics

Archimedes Screw - Illustration

Archimedes Screw

Have you ever heard of Archimedes? You’ve no doubt familiar with the legendary story of him running stark naked down the street shouting ‘eureka.’ That was when he worked out that fluid needs to rise in proportion to the weight placed into it.

He was one of the great geniuses of the world. He was also the first person to start seriously thinking about how the power of water can be harnessed, inventing such devices as the Archimedes screw and the hydraulic clock, both of which were advanced technologies for the time.

The rise of hydraulics

After the untimely death of Archimedes (The Romans accidentally killed him during the siege of Syracuse), the science of hydraulics was forgotten about for over a thousand years.

In the Middle Ages, French scientist-philosopher Blaise Pascal and Swiss physicist Daniel Bernoulli revived it, contributing laws that formed the basis of modern day hydraulics. Their ideas were the basis of how much hydraulic power is operated today.

Modern day hydraulics

The two big game changers in hydraulics were the pump, which increased the velocity and pressure of liquids beyond what could be found in nature and the self-contained hydraulic unit.

The second of which is now used in a long list of applications, which include:

  • Airplanes
  • Spacecraft
  • Rockets
  • Farming equipment
  • Ships
  • Trains
  • Machine tools
  • Automobile

Why hydraulics?

Hydraulic power has a number of benefits that makes it a viable competitor to electrical and mechanical systems.

Piston Pump Pictorial Curcuit Diagram

Piston Pump Pictorial Circuit Diagram

Hydraulics power uses incompressible fluid, which has the ability to cope with heavy loads in a very efficient manner. It responds to controls fast and operates very well in very hot conditions, which is why it is ideal for airplanes and spacecraft.

Examples of hydraulics in action

NASA

When a space shuttle is launched, it is powered by two rocket boosters, which provide the vast majority of propulsion during lift-off. Guess what its power by? Hydraulic power.

Garbage truck

When they introduced compactors to garbage trucks, it double the vehicle’s capacity, because it was able to crush the rubbish periodically. This compactor was made possible thanks to the use of a hydraulic press.

Brakes

In a basic brake system, when the brake is pressed, it causes fluid to flow to the calliper’s pistons from the pressure chamber, which then pushes against the spinning rotor, causing the vehicle to slow down.

There are thousands of other ways hydraulics are used, but it is clear from just these few examples, that the applications of hydraulics are versatile and widespread. Ever since Archimedes jumped out of his bath in a state of excitement, hydraulic technology has been changing the world we live in.

We are very grateful to the technology that helps drive our business and hope this blog has widened your appreciation of hydraulics.