Hydraulics & The Power Of Pressurised Fluids

The Power Of Hydraulics

History can point out that the potential power of pushing against, or trying to compress, liquids has been around as long as an oar has been put in the water, or the power of the water mill was harnessed.

However, what powers, or empowers so much of our modern lives lies is hydraulics, as discovered and enshrined by one Blaise Pascal.

Pascal was a French scientist, inventor and mathematician, a child prodigy and in his relatively short life made many scientific and mathematical discoveries and conclusions.

One of these, of passing interest to him, became enshrined as Pascal’s Law and it was his conclusion that “pressure exerted on an incompressible fluid is transmitted to every part of the fluid and container at the same pressure.”

That was in the mid seventeenth century, and was first successfully practically applied until over a century later by an English inventor named Joseph Bramah.

In 1795 Bramah invented and patented the hydraulic press. This machine used the principals set out by Pascal and was capable of exerting pressure to several thousand tons.

This could cut, shape or press iron and steel to precise specifications and is recognised as a fore-runner of machine-tool precision manufacturing.

The man who brought hydraulics into the modern world, or, put another way, helped make much of the world modern by the use of hydraulics, was William George Armstrong.

A trained solicitor, he had an inventors mind, and an engineering outlook. After a prolonged study of the waterwheel at a mill, (a day’s fishing in the mill pond, it is said) he could see the work that the wheel was producing, it was allowing a considerable potential to be lost.

This lost potential, to the engineers mind, could be harnessed in some way. He began by designing a rotary engine that would be powered by water, but unsatisfied, he redesigned until he had created a piston engine.

This in turn led to the development of hydraulic pipes for the transmitting of mechanical power through pressurised liquid, to extended areas away from the power source.

Armstrong built an industrial power house with his innovations of applying Pascal’s Law on fluid dynamics, or forces exerted on fluids.

Today hydraulics are in use all around us. In our motor cars and aeroplanes, but probably most noticeable in agricultural and construction site machinery. Some of the most efficient and powerful of these are available from Hanlon Case, suppliers and maintainers of heavy plant and construction machinery.

These everyday machines, tractors, diggers, lifters, are all capable of producing phenomenal power ratios through power hoses and pistons, but all behaving as Pascal said they could.