Broken Arrow, OK
Water Wheel On Mill
Photograph - Photograph
A water wheel is a machine for converting the energy of free-flowing or falling water into useful forms of power, often in a watermill. A water wheel consists of a large wooden or metal wheel, with a number of blades or buckets arranged on the outside rim forming the driving surface. Most commonly, the wheel is mounted vertically on a horizontal axle, but the tub or Norse wheel is mounted horizontally on a vertical shaft. Vertical wheels can transmit power either through the axle or via a ring gear and typically drive belts or gears; horizontal wheels usually directly drive their load.
Water wheels were still in commercial use well into the 20th century, but they are no longer in common use. Prior uses of water wheels include milling flour in gristmills and grinding wood into pulp for papermaking, but other uses include hammering wrought iron, machining, ore crushing and pounding fiber for use in the manufacture of cloth.
Some water wheels are fed by water from a mill pond, which is formed when a flowing stream is dammed. A channel for the water flowing to or from a water wheel is called a mill race (also spelled millrace) or simply a "race", and is customarily divided into sections. The race bringing water from the mill pond to the water wheel is a headrace; the one carrying water after it has left the wheel is commonly referred to as a tailrace.
John Smeaton's scientific investigation of the water wheel led to significant increases in efficiency in the mid to late 18th century and supplying much needed power for the Industrial Revolution.
Water wheels began being displaced by the smaller, less expensive and more efficient turbine developed by Beno�t Fourneyron, beginning with his first model in 1827. Turbines are capable of handling high heads, or elevations, that exceed the capability of practical sized waterwheels.
The main difficulty of water wheels is their dependence on flowing water, which limits where they can be located. Modern hydroelectric dams can be viewed as the descendants of the water wheel as they too take advantage of the movement of water downhill.
A vertically mounted water wheel that is rotated by falling water striking paddles, blades or buckets near the top of the wheel is said to be overshot. In true overshot wheels the water passes over the top of the wheel, but the term is sometimes applied to backshot or pitchback wheels where the water goes down behind the water wheel.
A typical overshot wheel has the water channeled to the wheel at the top and slightly beyond the axle. The water collects in the buckets on that side of the wheel, making it heavier than the other "empty" side. The weight turns the wheel, and the water flows out into the tail-water when the wheel rotates enough to invert the buckets. The overshot design can use all of the water flow for power (unless there is a leak) and does not require rapid flow.
Unlike undershot wheels, overshot wheels gain a double advantage from gravity. Not only is the momentum of the flowing water partially transferred to the wheel, the weight of the water descending in the wheel's buckets also imparts additional energy. The mechanical power derived from an overshot wheel is determined by the wheel's physical size and the available head, so they are ideally suited to hilly or mountainous country. On average, the undershot wheel uses 22 percent of the energy in the flow of water, while an overshot wheel uses 63 percent, as calculated by English civil engineer John Smeaton in the 18th century.
Overshot wheels demand exact engineering and significant head, which usually means significant investment in constructing a dam, millpond and waterways. Sometimes the final approach of the water to the wheel is along a lengthy flume or penstock.
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March 13th, 2014
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