Horsepower Required to Accelerate a Flywheel

    Last time we discussed how torque is created as a flywheel spins.   This torque is a factor of the flywheel’s moment of inertia, which is dependent on how far the masses of the flywheel’s parts are located from its center of rotation.   Today we’ll present a formula to compute how much horsepower is required to accelerate a flywheel.   And here it is,

Horsepower Required to Accelerate a Flywheel

Horsepower Required to Accelerate a Flywheel

where, T is the torque created on the flywheel’s shaft in units of inch-pounds.   The term n is the flywheel shaft’s speed of rotation in revolutions per minute, RPM.   Horsepower, HP, is engineering shorthand for a unit of power equal to 6600 inch-pounds per second, and the number 63,025 is a constant needed to convert torque, T, and the spinning shaft’s rotations per minute, RPM, into horsepower units.

    Torque is present whether the flywheel’s spin accelerates or decelerates.   During acceleration torque is created, which contributes to the production of kinetic energy that’s stored inside the flywheel.  When a flywheel’s spin decelerates, its mass experiences the effects of negative acceleration, and stored kinetic energy is released.

    As we learned awhile back, horsepower is a function of torque in any moving machinery, including engines and flywheels.  An engine must produce horsepower to accelerate a flywheel connected to its shaft.   By the same token, when the engine’s horsepower output diminishes or stops, the flywheel begins to decelerate.   This deceleration causes kinetic energy stored within the flywheel to be released, providing horsepower necessary to keep the engine and flywheel spinning.   That is, until the power output of the engine returns or the stored kinetic energy of the flywheel is ultimately exhausted.

    We’ll see how that works next time when we take a look inside a reciprocating engine.

opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog



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