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Hydraulic Ram Pump


Hydraulic Ram Pumps

Low maintenance pumping of water without electricity!

Hydraulic ram pumps are a time-tested technology that use the energy of a large amount of water falling a small height to lift a small amount of that water to a much greater height. In this way, water from a spring or stream in a valley can be pumped to a village or irrigation scheme on the hillside.

Depending on the difference in heights between the inlet pipe and the outlet pipe, these water pumps will lift 1-20 percent of the water that flows into it. In general, a ram can pump approximately one tenth of the received water volume to a height ten times greater than the intake. A hydraulic ram pump is useful where the water source flows constantly and the usable fall from the water source to the pump location is at least 91 cm (3 ft).

Since ram pumps can only be used in situations where falling water is available, their use is restricted to three main applications:

  • lifting drinking water from springs to settlements on higher ground.
  • pumping drinking water from streams that have significant slope.
  • lifting irrigation water from streams or raised irrigation channels.

Ram Pump Advantages include:

  1. Inexpensive
  2. Very simple construction and easy to install yourself.
  3. Does not consume petrol, diesel or electricity.
  4. Minimum maintenance.
  5. Pollution free.
  6. Quiet pumping 24 hours per day.

Hydraulic ram

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This article is about the water pump. For the vehicle extraction tool, see Hydraulic rescue tools. For the piston-based actuator, see hydraulic cylinder.



point higher than where the water originally started. The hydraulic ram is sometimes used in remote areas, where there is both a source of low-head hydropower, and a need for pumping water to a destination higher in elevation than the source. In this situation, the ram is often useful, since it requires no outside source of power other than the kinetic energy of water.

// [edit] History

In 1772 John Whitehurst of Cheshire in the United Kingdom invented a manually controlled precursor of the hydraulic ram called the “pulsation engine”. The first one he installed, in 1772 at Oulton, Cheshire, raised water to a height of 16 ft (4.9 m).[1] He installed another in an Irish property in 1783. He did not patent it, and details are obscure, but it is known to have had an air vessel.

The first self-acting ram pump was invented by the Frenchman Joseph Michel Montgolfier in 1796 for raising water in his paper mill at Voiron. His friend Matthew Boulton took out a British patent on his behalf in 1797. The sons of Montgolfier obtained an English patent for an improved version in 1816, and this was acquired, together with Whitehurst’s design, in 1820 by Josiah Easton, a Somerset-born engineer who had just moved to London.

Easton’s firm, inherited by his son James (1796–1871), grew during the nineteenth century to become one of the more important engineering manufacturers in the United Kingdom, with a large works at Erith, Kent. They specialised in water supply and sewerage systems world-wide, as well as land drainage projects. Eastons had a good business supplying rams for water supply purposes to large country houses, and also to farms and village communities, and a number of their installations still survived as of 2004.

The firm was eventually closed in 1909, but the ram business was continued by James R Easton. In 1929 it was acquired by Green & Carter[citation needed] [2], of Winchester, Hampshire, who were engaged in the manufacturing and installation of the well-known Vulcan and Vacher Rams.



Hydraulic ram, System Lambach now Roscheider Hof, Open Air Museum

The first US patent was issued to J. Cerneau and S.S. Hallet in 1809. US interest in hydraulic rams picked up around 1840, as further patents were issued and domestic companies started offering rams for sale. Toward the end of the 19th Century, interest waned as electricity and electric pumps became widely available.

By the end of the twentieth century interest in hydraulic rams has revived, due to the needs of sustainable technology in developing countries, and energy conservation in developed ones. A good example is AID Foundation International in the Philippines, who won an Ashden Award for their work developing ram pumps that could be easily maintained for use in remote villages[3]. The hydraulic ram principle has been used in some proposals for exploiting wave power, one of which was discussed as long ago as 1931 by Hanns Günther in his book In hundert Jahren.[4]

[edit] Construction and principle of operation

A hydraulic ram has only two moving parts, a spring or weight loaded “waste” valve sometimes known as the “clack” valve and a “delivery” check valve, making it cheap to build, easy to maintain, and very reliable. In addition, there is a drive pipe supplying water from an elevated source, and a delivery pipe, taking a portion of the water that comes through the drive pipe to an elevation higher than the source.

[edit] Sequence of operation

Figure 2: Basic components of a hydraulic ram:




1. Inlet — drive pipe
2. Free flow at waste valve
3. Outlet — delivery pipe
4. Waste valve
5. Delivery

check valve
6. Pressure vessel

A simplified hydraulic ram is shown in Figure 2. Initially, the waste valve [4] is open, and the delivery valve [5] is closed. The water in the drive pipe [1] starts to flow under the force of gravity and picks up speed and kinetic energy until it forces the waste valve closed. The momentum of the water flow in the supply pipe against the now closed waste valve causes a water hammer that raises the pressure in the pump, opens the delivery valve [5], and forces some water to flow into the delivery pipe [3]. Because this water is being forced uphill through the delivery pipe farther than it is falling downhill from the source, the flow slows; when the flow reverses, the delivery check valve closes. If all water flow has stopped, the loaded waste valve reopens against the now static head, which allows the process to begin again.

A pressure vessel [6] containing air cushions the hydraulic pressure shock when the waste valve closes, and it also improves the pumping efficiency by allowing a more constant flow through the delivery pipe. Although, in theory, the pump could work without it, the efficiency would drop drastically and the pump would be subject to extraordinary stresses that could shorten its life considerably. One problem is that the pressurized air will gradually dissolve into the water until none remains. One solution to this problem is to have the air separated from the water by an elastic diaphragm (similar to an expansion tank); however, this solution can be problematic in developing countries where replacements are difficult to procure. Another solution is to have a mechanism such as a snifting valve that automatically inserts a small bubble of air with each pump cycle.[5] Another solution is to insert an inner tube of a car or bicycle tire into the pressure vessel with some air in it and the valve closed. This tube is in effect the same as the diaphragm, but it is implemented with more widely available materials. The air in the tube cushions the shock of the water the same as the air in other configurations does.

The optimum length of the drive pipe is five-to-twelve times the vertical distance between the source and the pump, or 500-to-1000 times the diameter of the delivery pipe, whichever is less. This length of drive pipe typically results in a period between pulses of one-to-two seconds. A typical efficiency is 60%, but up to 80% is possible. The drive pipe is ordinarily straight but can be curved or even wound in a spiral. The main requirement is that it be inelastic, strong, and rigid; otherwise, it would greatly diminish the efficiency.

Some later ram designs in the UK called compound rams were designed to pump treated water using an untreated drive water source, which overcomes some of the problems of having drinking water sourced from an open stream.[6]

[edit] Common operational problems

Some common operational problems are intrusion of air into the drive pipe, blockage of the intake or valves with debris, knocking due to having too little air in the pressure vessel, freezing in winter and bursting of the delivery pipe if output is blocked or pressure not relieved.





2 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/23/2010 8:57 AM

    Long time reader / 1st time poster. Really enjoy reading the blog, keep up the good work. Will definitely start posting more oftenin the future.

  2. 08/04/2015 3:22 AM

    very cool indeed

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