simple science

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Simple Science

171. Power of water
The Power behind the Engine:
Small boys soon learn the power of running water; swimming or rowing downstream is easy, while swimming or rowing against the current is difficult, and the swifter the water, the easier the one and the more difficult the other; the river assists or opposes us as we go with it or against it. The water of a quiet pool or of a gentle stream cannot do work, but water which is plunging over a precipice or dam, or is flowing down steep slopes, may be made to saw wood, grind our corn, light our streets, run our electric cars, etc. A waterfall, or a rapid stream, is a great asset to any community, and for this reason should be carefully guarded. Water power is as great a source of wealth as a coal bed or a gold mine.

The most tremendous waterfall in our country is Niagara Falls, which every minute hurls millions of gallons of water down a 163-foot precipice. The energy possessed by such an enormous quantity of water flowing at such a tremendous speed is almost beyond everyday comprehension, and would suffice to run the engines of many cities far and near. Numerous attempts to buy from the United States the right to utilize some of this apparently wasted energy have been made by various commercial companies. It is fortunate that these negotiations have been largely fruitless, because much deviation of the water for commercial uses and the installation of machinery in the vicinity of the famous falls would greatly detract from the beauty of this world-known scene, and would rob our country of a natural beauty unequaled elsewhere.
172. Water Wheels
The Power behind the Engine:
In Figure the water of a small but rapid mountain stream is made to rotate a large wheel, which in turn communicates its motion through belts to a distant sawmill or grinder. In more level regions huge dams are built which hold back the water and keep it at a higher level than the wheel; from the dam the water is conveyed in pipes (flumes) to the paddle wheel which it turns. Cogwheels or belts connect the paddle wheel with the factory machinery, so that motion of the paddle wheel insures the running of the machinery.

One of the most efficient forms of water wheels is that shown in Figure, and called the Pelton wheel. Water issues in a narrow jet similar to that of the ordinary garden hose and strikes with great force against the lower part of the wheel, thereby causing rotation of the wheel. Belts transfer this motion to the machinery of factory or mill.

FIG. - A mountain stream turns the wheels of the mill.

FIG. - The Pelton water wheel.
173. Turbines
The Power behind the Engine:
The most efficient form of water motor is the turbine, a strong metal wheel shaped somewhat like a pin wheel, inclosed in a heavy metal case.

Water is conveyed from a reservoir or dam through a pipe (penstock) to the turbine case, in which is placed the heavy metal turbine wheel. The force of the water causes rotation of the turbine and of the shaft which is rigidly fastened to it. The water which flows into the turbine case causes rotation of the wheel, escapes from the case through openings, and flows into the tail water.

The power which a turbine can furnish depends upon the quantity of water and the height of the fall, and also upon the turbine wheel itself. One of the largest turbines known has a horse power of about 20,000; that is, it is equivalent, approximately, to 20,000 horses.

FIG. - A turbine at Niagara Falls.
174. How much is a Stream Worth
The Power behind the Engine:
The work which a stream can perform may be easily calculated. Suppose, for example, that 50,000 pounds of water fall over a 22-foot dam every second; the power of such a stream would be 1,100,000 foot pounds per second or 2000 H.P. Naturally, a part of this power would be lost to use by friction within the machinery and by leakage, so that the power of a turbine run by a 2000 H.P. stream would be less than that value.

Of course, the horse power to be obtained from a stream determines the size of the paddle wheel or turbine which can be run by it. It would be possible to construct a turbine so large that the stream would not suffice to turn the wheel; for this reason, the power of a stream is carefully determined before machine construction is begun, and the size of the machinery depends upon the estimates of the water power furnished by expert engineers.

A rough estimate of the volume of a stream may be made by the method described below: -

Suppose we allow a stream of water to flow through a rectangular trough; the speed with which the water flows through the trough can be determined by noting the time required for a chip to float the length of the trough; if the trough is 10 feet long and the time required is 5 seconds, the water has a velocity of 2 feet per second.

The quantity of water which flows through the trough each second depends upon the dimensions of the trough and the velocity of the water. Suppose the trough is 5 feet wide and 3 feet high, or has a cross section of 15 square feet. If the velocity of the water were 1 foot per second, then 15 cubic feet of water would pass any given point each second, but since the velocity of the water is 2 feet per second, 30 cubic feet will represent the amount of water which will flow by a given point in one second.

FIG. - Estimating the quantity of water which flows through the trough each second.
175. Quantity of Water Furnished by a River
The Power behind the Engine:
Drive stakes in the river at various places and note the time required for a chip to float from one stake to another. If we know the distance between the stakes and the time required for the chip to float from one stake to another, the velocity of the water can be readily determined.

The width of the stream from bank to bank is easily measured, and the depth is obtained in the ordinary way by sounding; it is necessary to take a number of soundings because the bed of the river is by no means level, and soundings taken at only one level would not give an accurate estimate. If the soundings show the following depths: 30, 25, 20, 32, 28, the average depth could be taken as 30 + 25 + 20 + 32 + 28 ÷ 5, or 27 feet. If, as a result of measuring, the river at a given point in its course is found to be 27 feet deep and 60 feet wide, the area of a cross section at that spot would be 1620 square feet, and if the velocity proved to be 6 feet per second, then the quantity of water passing in any one second would be 1620 × 6, or 9720 cubic feet. By experiment it has been found that 1 cu. ft. of water weighs about 62.5 lb. The weight of the water passing each second would therefore be 62.5 × 9720, or 607,500 lb. If this quantity of water plunges over a 10-ft. dam, it does 607,500 × 10, or 6,075,000 foot pounds of work per second, or 11,045 H.P. Such a stream would be very valuable for the running of machinery.
176. Windmills
The Power behind the Engine:
Those of us who have spent our vacation days in the country know that there is no ready-made water supply there as in the cities, but that as a rule the farmhouses obtain their drinking water from springs and wells. In poorer houses, water is laboriously carried in buckets from the spring or is lifted from the well by the windlass. In more prosperous houses, pumps are installed; this is an improvement over the original methods, but the quantity of water consumed by the average family is so great as to make the task of pumping an arduous one.

The average amount of water used per day by one person is 25 gallons. This includes water for drinking, cooking, dish washing, bathing, laundry. For a family of five, therefore, the daily consumption would be 125 gallons; if to this be added the water for a single horse, cow, and pig, the total amount needed will be approximately 150 gallons per day. A strong man can pump that amount from an ordinary well in about one hour, but if the well is deep, more time and strength are required.

The invention of the windmill was a great boon to country folks because it eliminated from their always busy life one task in which labor and time were consumed.

FIG. - The toy pin wheel is a miniature windmill.
177. The Principle of the Windmill
The Power behind the Engine:
The toy pin wheel is a windmill in miniature. The wind strikes the sails, and causes rotation; and the stronger the wind blows, the faster will the wheel rotate. In windmills, the sails are of wood or steel, instead of paper, but the principle is identical.

As the wheel rotates, its motion is communicated to a mechanical device which makes use of it to raise and lower a plunger, and hence as long as the wind turns the windmill, water is raised. The water thus raised empties into a large tank, built either in the windmill tower or in the garret of the house, and from the tank the water flows through pipes to the different parts of the house. On very windy days the wheel rotates rapidly, and the tank fills quickly; in order to guard against an overflow from the tank a mechanical device is installed which stops rotation of the wheel when the tank is nearly full. The supply tank is usually large enough to hold a supply of water sufficient for several days, and hence a continuous calm of a day or two does not materially affect the house flow. When once built, a windmill practically takes care of itself, except for oiling, and is an efficient and cheap domestic possession.

FIG. - The windmill pumps water into the tank.
178. Steam as a Working Power
The Power behind the Engine:
If a delicate vane is held at an opening from which steam issues, the pressure of the steam will cause rotation of the vane, and if the vane is connected with a machine, work can be obtained from the steam.

When water is heated in an open vessel, the pressure of its steam is too low to be of practical value, but if on the contrary water is heated in an almost closed vessel, its steam pressure is considerable. If steam at high pressure is directed by nozzles against the blades of a wheel, rapid rotation of the wheel ensues just as it did in Figure, although in this case steam pressure replaces water pressure. After the steam has spent itself in turning the turbine, it condenses into water and makes its escape through openings in an inclosing case. In Figure the protecting case is removed, in order that the form of the turbine and the positions of the nozzles may be visible.

A single large turbine wheel may have as many as 800,000 sails or blades, and steam may pour out upon these from many nozzles.

The steam turbine is very much more efficient than its forerunner, the steam engine. The installation of turbines on ocean liners has been accompanied by great increase in speed, and by an almost corresponding decrease in the cost of maintenance.

FIG. - Steam as a source of power.

FIG. - Steam turbine with many blades and 4 nozzles.
179. Steam Engines
The Power behind the Engine:
A very simple illustration of the working of a steam engine is given in Figure. Steam under pressure enters through the opening F, passes through N, and presses upon the piston M. As a result M moves downward, and thereby induces rotation in the large wheel L.

As M falls it drives the air in D out through O and P (the opening P is not visible in the diagram).

As soon as this is accomplished, a mechanical device draws up the rod E, which in turn closes the opening N, and thus prevents the steam from passing into the part of D above M.

But when the rod E is in such a position that N is closed, O on the other hand is open, and steam rushes through it into D and forces up the piston. This up-and-down motion of the piston causes continuous rotation of the wheel L. If the fire is hot, steam is formed quickly, and the piston moves rapidly; if the fire is low, steam is formed slowly, and the piston moves less rapidly.

The steam engine as seen on our railroad trains is very complex, and cannot be discussed here; in principle, however, it is identical with that just described. Figure shows a steam harvester at work on a modern farm.

In both engine and turbine the real source of power is not the steam but the fuel, such as coal or oil, which converts the water into steam.

FIG. - The principle of the steam engine.

FIG. - Steam harvester at work.
180. Gas Engines
The Power behind the Engine:
Automobiles have been largely responsible for the gas engine. To carry coal for fuel and water for steam would be impracticable for most motor cars. Electricity is used in some cars, but the batteries are heavy, expensive, and short-lived, and are not always easily replaceable. For this reason gasoline is extensively used, and in the average automobile the source of power is the force generated by exploding gases.

It was discovered some years ago that if the vapor of gasoline or naphtha was mixed with a definite quantity of air, and a light was applied to the mixture, an explosion would result. Modern science uses the force of such exploding gases for the accomplishment of work, such as running of automobiles and launches.

In connection with the gasoline supply is a carburetor or sprayer, from which the cylinder C receives a fine mist of gasoline vapor and air. This mixture is ignited by an automatic, electric sparking device, and the explosion of the gases drives the piston P to the right. In the 4-cycle type of gas engines - the kind used in automobiles - the four strokes are as follows: 1. The mixture of gasoline and air enters the cylinder as the piston moves to the right. 2. The valves being closed, the mixture is compressed as the piston moves to the left. 3. The electric spark ignites the compressed mixture and drives the piston to the right. 4. The waste gas is expelled as the piston moves to the left. The exhaust valve is then closed, the inlet valve opened, and another cycle of four strokes begins.

The use of gasoline in launches and automobiles is familiar to many. Not only are launches and automobiles making use of gas power, but the gasoline engine has made it possible to propel aėroplanes through the air.

FIG. - The gas engine.


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