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A screw pump is a positive-displacement (PD) pump that use one or several screws to move fluids or solids along the screw(s) axis. In its simplest form (the Archimedes' screw pump), a single screw rotates in a cylindrical cavity, thereby moving the material along the screw's spindle. This ancient construction is still used in many low-tech applications, such as irrigation systems and in agricultural machinery for transporting grain and other solids.
Development of the screw pump has led to a variety of multiple-axis technologies where carefully crafted screws rotate in opposite directions or remains stationary within a cavity. The cavity can be profiled, thereby creating cavities where the pumped material is "trapped".
In offshore and marine installations, a three-spindle screw pump is often used to pump high-pressure viscous fluids. Three screws drive the pumped liquid forth in a closed chamber. As the screws rotate in opposite directions, the pumped liquid moves along the screws' spindles.
Three-spindle screw pumps are used for transport of viscous fluids with lubricating properties. They are suited for a variety of applications such as fuel-injection, oil burners, boosting, hydraulics, fuel, lubrication, circulating, feed and so on.
Compared to centrifugal pumps, positive-displacement pumps have several advantages. The pumped fluid is moving axially without turbulence which eliminates foaming that would otherwise occur in viscous fluids. They are also able to pump fluids of higher viscosity without losing flow rate. Also, changes in the pressure difference have little impact on PD pumps compared to centrifugal pumps.
The term ‘screw pump' is often used generically. However, this generalization can be a pitfall as it fails to recognize the different product or ‘screw' configurations, as well as the uses, advantages and design considerations for each. The design differences of each screw configuration and pump type make each suitable for different applications and handling fluids with varying characteristics.
Each ‘screw pump' operates on the same basic principle of a screw turning to isolate a volume of fluid and convey it. However, the mechanical design of each is different. The primary difference is the number of screws: one, two, three or more.
A cuneiform inscription of Assyrian king Sennacherib (704–681 BC) has been interpreted by Stephanie Dalley to describe casting water screws in bronze some 350 years earlier. This is consistent with classical author Strabo, who describes the Hanging Gardens as watered by screws.
- Oleson 2000, pp. 242–251
- Stephanie Dalley, The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: an elusive World Wonder traced, (2013), OUP ISBN 978-0-19-966226-5
- Dalley, Stephanie; Oleson, John Peter (2003). "Sennacherib, Archimedes, and the Water Screw: The Context of Invention in the Ancient World". Technology and Culture. 44 (1): 1–26. doi:10.1353/tech.2003.0011.