The amalgamation of two stoutly established engineering concepts always draws attention. These hybrid devices adopt targeted properties from two or more principles while rejecting undesirable characteristics. Hydropneumatic accumulators use this principle to produce special vessels, energy storage containers that hold large amounts of fluid energy. In clarifying the point, engineers often interpret hydraulic systems as circuits, just as electronic engineers classify their discrete components as connected circuit elements. In following this metaphor to its conclusion, the accumulator is a battery or storage cell within the circuit, a critically important part of the whole that stores a liquid charge.
Accumulators are entrenched fluid control elements, but where does the pneumatic ingredient come into play? Well, the gas works in conjunction with hydraulic power to augment the storage capabilities of the vessel. Remember, a liquid doesn’t compress well but gas does. Air is, therefore, the ideal partner for these storage cells, these hydropneumatic accumulators. The hybrid combination keeps power transmission high, a property of hydraulics, while enabling design engineers to keep the vessel compact thanks to the compressible characteristics of the gas.
Established Dampening Aids
The air-to-liquid properties infuse this type of accumulator with the positive aspects of the two energy transmitting fluid forms, but there’s more to discover. A purely hydraulic system is susceptible to transient energy spikes, the liquid pulses and fluid surges that damage pressure-rated equipment on a daily basis. Hydropneumatic accumulators dampen these adverse events, blunting the trauma of system pressure waves. A compressor piston or series of pistons works synchronously to minimize such events, but there’ll always be some evidence of wave resonance, which is where the accumulator enters the scene. It cushions the piston action, storing the energy, and eliminates the fluid shock effect known as “hydraulic hammer.”
Compressor pistons, actuators and sensors work in concert to smooth pressure variations and keep energy distribution uniform, but hydropneumatic storage takes the efficiency of the system to the next level. In turn, the pumps and containers that are equipped with these components can be reduced in size and capacity because system efficiency is now amplified by a special relationship, one shared by air and its matching hydraulic fluid (usually water or an oil substitute) when compression effects are applied to the framework of the machinery. It’s also worth noting that this dampening feature applies to leakage incidents, with the compressed air inside the accumulator balancing pressure drops via a supply of on-demand hydraulic power.
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