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Earth Day: Celebrating water in fluid power

Water: The original hydraulic fluid

Did you know that water has been used for centuries as the first medium for hydraulics? Without these early inventions, a lot of us wouldn’t be in business today. In honor of Earth Day, we’re celebrating water by giving a quick recap of it’s importance for fluid power.

A quick history review:

The earliest record of hydraulic devices include the Archimedean screw and the two-piston, positive displacement pump. The latter was created by Ctesibius, a famous Greek inventor, as early as 200 BC. He happens to be the same inventor of the device our company is named after.

Archimedean Screw

Higher pressure hydraulics were then achieved after steam engines and electrical power was discovered in the 1700’s (Thanks, Benjamin Franklin!). The UK took advantage of hydraulics for industrial use during the industrial revolution to power presses and extrusion machines.

Oil joins the picture...

Today, oil is used as a primary hydraulic power source. This started in the beginning of the 20th century. Throughout the 20th century, oil hydraulics has become mainstream for systems because of the superior lubrication properties, higher boiling point, lower freezing point, corrosion resistance, and less likely to have organic growth. Since the early 1900's, many additives have been developed to mitigate these problems with water hydraulics.

Water vs Oil Hydraulics History Graph

Benefits of water, centuries later!

Though the evolution of oil as an alternate power source has provided many benefits, water is still supporting us in applications where oil is not an option. For example, mineral oil shouldn't be used where leakage could contaminate the environment or their is a risk of fire. Some of the applications many of you can relate to are: food production, medicine manufacturing, steel mills, and offshore oil rigs. These applications use a high water-based fluid with additives. Special water applications include water jet cutting or high pressure washers.

Why we care

Waterclock Engineering has experience working with all of these applications. Water hydraulic systems tend to use different components, materials, and control schemes compared to oil hydraulic systems. We celebrate the fact that we’ve worked with water systems from 200 psi to over 50,000 psi. A lot of people think that oil is the only way. In honor of Earth Day, we thought it appropriate to call this out and tell you we can walk you through what is needed for your water system including applications that need to meet API, DNV, NEC, ATEX, or IECEx standards.


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