The Spiral Pump: Pumping Water Without Electricity

The Spiral Pump: Pumping Water Without Electricity

By Emanuele Quaranta

The spiral pump (also known as water wheel pump) is a hydraulic machine that pumps water without electricity. With the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the increased focus on renewable energy is making the spiral pump a viable option for pumping water, especially in rural areas and developing countries. Simple installation and low maintenance costs make the spiral pump a favorable, environmentally-friendly alternative.

What Is a Spiral Pump and How Does It Work?

A spiral pump is constituted of a pipe wrapped around a horizontal axle, generating a spiral tube that is fastened to a water wheel. The water wheel is in flowing water, so that the water in the river provides the energy necessary for the rotation of the wheel. Hence, the spiral tube also rotates. When the inlet surface of the tube (the tube’s external extremity) passes into the river, water enters into the tube. This water volume moves toward the outlet of the tube (the internal extremity), at the center of the wheel, where a straight tube is connected to the end-user.

Several water columns are generated inside the spiral tube, separated from each other by columns of compressed air trapped between the water columns. These columns of compressed air push against the water columns, so that at the outlet (the center of the wheel) the water achieves energy and velocity. In this way, it can be pumped at a higher elevation or at a certain distance from the river.

Where & How Can It Be Applied?

The possible users are irrigation consortia and civil people, in both developing and developed countries, especially for drip irrigation and partially for drinking water in developing nations. The largest application of the pump, and in general of water withdrawal, is irrigation. Although there have been past attempts to build such pumps in an artisanal way, aQysta developed a patent that allows to manufacturer this pump cost-effectively and as a commercial product. aQysta says that spiral pumps are able to pump to a maximum height of at least 20 meters and a maximum flow rate of at least 43.6 m3/day. As of October 2016, aQysta installed over 40 pumps worldwide in countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Turkey, Zambia and Spain.

Environmental and Economic Benefits: Future Development

Spiral pumps work without fuel or electricity, since the needed energy is supplied by flowing water (preferably a flow velocity faster than 1 m/s). The spiral pump saves up to 70% of overall lifetime costs compared to diesel pumping. The spiral pump requires no operation costs and it is environmentally friendly.

Therefore, spiral pumps can represent an interesting technology, especially for irrigation. This is the motivation that has encouraged Politecnico di Torino (Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy) and Southampton University (UK) to start scientific research on spiral pumps, in collaboration with the industry.

Image courtesy of Jaime Michavila (aQysta).

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