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Waterwheels Essay

5408 words - 22 pages

History of the Water WheelFrom the olden times, a water wheel is a machine that uses flowing or falling water to produce power. It 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.The waterwheel is an ancient device that uses flowing or falling water to create power by means of a set of paddles mounted around a wheel. The force of the water moves the paddles, and the consequent rotation of the wheel is transmitted to the machinery via the shaft of the wheel. Water Wheels were used for crop irrigation, grinding grains, supply drinking water to villages and later to drive sawmills, pumps, forge bellows, tilt-hammers, trip hammers, and to power textile mills. They were probably the first method of creating mechanical energy that replaced humans and animals. As early as the first century, the horizontal waterwheel, which is terribly inefficient in transferring the power of the current to the milling mechanism, was being replaced by waterwheels of the vertical design. The earliest known description of a vertical water wheel is found in the writings of a Roman engineer by the name of Vituvius who lived in the Augustan age around 11 B.C. However, water wheels remained few and far between and were rarely employed as the two great sources of power in that day and age were men and animals. However, in the 4th century A.D. the Romans used 16 overshot water wheels to power a large flour mill at Arles in Southern France. When Rome was under siege in the year 537 AD, the Goths shut off the aqueducts whose water drove the city's gristmills. Belisarius, the Bzyantine general defending the city, ordered floating mills installed close to the Tiber bridges, whose piers constricted and accelerated the current. Two rows of boats were anchored with waterwheels suspended between them. The arrangement worked so well that cities all over Europe were soon copying it. While the Romans continued to progress, it was the Persians who first used the power of wind and water to operate mills. In ancient China, waterpower was also applied at an early date to grinding grain. Large rotary mills appeared in China about the same time as in Europe (2nd century BC). For many centuries Europe relied heavily on slave and donkey powered mills; in China the waterwheel was a critical power supply. One of the most intriguing applications was for iron casting. According to an ancient text, in 31 AD the engineer Tu Shih "invented a water-powered reciprocator for the casting of iron agricultural implements." Smelters and casters were "instructed to use the rushing of water to operate their billows. Chinese...

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