Archive for April, 2018

One way to Reduce Cavitation by Increasing Water Pressure

Monday, April 16th, 2018

    Ever hear the old saying, “There’s more than one way to cook a goose”?   The statement is meant to encourage creative thinking when problem solving.   This forward thinking can be applied to the problem of destructive cavitation bubbles as well.   Finding ways to reduce cavitation is something engineers are well versed in.   As discussed in our last blog, one way to prevent cavitation is by lowering water temperature at a centrifugal pump’s inlet.    But sometimes that isn’t possible.   Today we’ll discuss another way, reducing cavitation by increasing water pressure.

One way to Reduce Cavitation by Increasing Water Pressure

One way to Reduce Cavitation by Increasing Water Pressure

   

    If you’ve ever seen a movie featuring divers, you’ll no doubt be aware that the deeper a diver goes, the more water pressure there is bearing down on him from above.   The same goes for a centrifugal pump’s storage tank.   The higher the water level inside the tank, the higher the pressure bearing down on the pump’s inlet, which is located at the bottom of the tank.   This is the area in which cavitation bubbles are likely to form.   The mathematical equation that illustrates this relationship is,

P = γ  × h                                                                   (1)

where, P is water pressure at the bottom of the tank, γ is the Greek symbol gamma, representing the specific weight of water, (0.036 pounds/inch3), and h is the depth of the water inside the tank.

    Let’s see what happens when we increase the water level, h, from 72 inches, shown on the left, to 144 inches, on the right.

P = (0.036 Lb/in3)  × (72 in) = 2.592 PSI                      (2)

When the water level is raised to 144 inches, P becomes,

P = (0.036 Lb/in3)  × (144 in) = 5.184 PSI                     (3)

    We see that by raising the water level in the tank from 72 to 144 inches, pressure at the bottom of the tank where the inlet is located is increased from 2.592 PSI to 5.184 PSI, pounds per square inch.

    Next time we’ll see how simply elevating the tank has an impact on cavitation.

 

Manipulating Water Temperature to Control Cavitation

Monday, April 9th, 2018

    As we learned previously, cavitation bubbles form at a centrifugal pump’s inlet when the thermodynamic properties of water, namely temperature and pressure, are right.   Today we’ll see how just manipulating water temperature can control cavitation.

 Manipulating Water Temperature to Control Cavitation

Manipulating Water Temperature to Control Cavitation

   

    Some centrifugal pumps draw water from an external heat source such as a heat exchanger in order to provide heat to buildings, generate power, and perform manufacturing processes.   On some exchangers heat is applied at a fixed rate and can’t be varied.   On others heat can be varied by using a heat exchanger fitted with a temperature control.   This makes it easy to reduce or lower water temperature introduced at the pump’s inlet.   If the temperature is kept low enough relative to the pressure at the inlet, cavitation bubbles won’t form.

    Let’s say water enters the pump’s inlet from a heat exchanger at 59ºF and internal pump pressure is 0.25 pounds per square inch (PSI).   With these parameters in place water boils and cavitation bubbles will form in the pump inlet.   But if the heat exchanger is adjusted so that temperature is lowered by a mere two degrees to 57ºF, cavitation ceases.   This is in accordance with the boiling points of water, listed for various pressures and temperatures, as published in engineering thermodynamic texts.

    If it’s not possible to lower water temperature at the pump inlet, an alternate method to control cavitation is to raise water pressure, which can be accomplished in different ways.   We’ll review those options next time.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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The Principle of Continuity – What Goes In Must Come Out

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

    Last time we learned how cavitation degrades a centrifugal pump’s performance by restricting and reducing the water flow at the pump’s inlet where these destructive bubbles are formed.   Today we’ll see that despite the fact these cavitation bubbles return to a liquid water state further along in the pump’s high pressure section when they implode, the water flow within the pump remains the same.   This is true because of the engineering principle of continuity, which holds that the water flow rate within a pump or any other closed system remains the same throughout that system.   What goes in must come out.

    Continuity has to do with the rate of water flowing through pipes, valves, and pumps within a plumbing system.   As water flows through a centrifugal pump, its flow rate is measured as the volume of water that moves past a certain point in the pump per unit of time.   Suppose for example that during one minute of elapsed time the volume of water flowing through at the inlet point is found to be five gallons.   This then becomes the system’s flow rate of 5 gallons per minute.   We’ll call this flow rate Q1.

 The Priniciple of Continuity – What Goes In Must Come Out

The Principle of Continuity – What Goes In Must Come Out

   

    The principle of continuity states that this flow rate Q1 must remain the same throughout the pump.   If this were not true, any observed difference in water volume would mean water is somehow either lost or created between the pump’s inlet and discharge.   This is an impossibility if the pump is an intact enclosed system, absent any other inlet points or leaks.   So according to the principle of continuity, Q1 must equal Q2, the flow rate at pump discharge.

    When cavitation occurs at the pump’s inlet, Q1, these steam bubbles restrict water flowing into the pump.   Although these bubbles will later implode and return to a liquid water state further along the pump system, this change will not affect the flow rate of the water within the pump.   The flow rate established at intake will remain the same at pump discharge, Q2.

    Next time we’ll see how cavitation in centrifugal pumps can be prevented.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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