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Patent Pending on Microstructured Heavy Equipment

Look, Mom, No Valves!
 
Researchers at Purdue University have found a way to improve the efficiency of motors in heavy equipment and reduce fuel use. The new designs include two major improvements: They do away with valves now needed to direct the flow of hydraulic fluid in heavy equipment, and they also use textured •microstructured• surfaces inside pumps to improve performance.
 
Research has shown the valveless design could reduce fuel consumption by 40 percent. Greater savings could be obtained by combining the valveless design with the microstructured surface concept, according to Monika Ivantysynova, Professor in Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering. The microstructured surfaces have been shown to radically reduce power losses due to friction caused by hydraulic fluid (www.purdue.edu).
 
Hydraulic systems use a central variable displacement pump that pressurizes fluid, and valves direct the flow of fluid to actuators, which move tools such as shovels and buckets in excavation equipment.  In the new valveless design, each actuator has its own pump, thus removing the need for valves.
 
The Microstructured Concept
 
Findings have shown the microstructured surfaces reduce losses due to friction by up to 57 percent when the pump is operating at low levels. These microstructured surfaces are located in narrow gaps at several locations inside a pump that are filled with hydraulic fluid. The fluid-filled gaps, which both seal the high-pressure chamber and also work as a bearing that allows parts to move freely, are a major source of power losses.
 
Previously it was thought that the surfaces should be polished smooth, but Ivantysynova discovered that having a surface containing features one micron high improves efficiency.  The gaps are located between the pump's piston and cylinder walls and between the cylinder block and a part called the valve plate, which connects to the cylinder along with the pump ports.
 
•We learned that it actually improved performance to have surfaces that were not completely smooth, which was unexpected,• she said. Purdue has filed a patent for the innovation, called an •advanced gap surface design.•

By Michelle Simmons
Get Heavy Equipment Operator Jobs, Contributing Editor

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