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Bell Siphon Experiments

Bruce Fisher Tuesday 4 October 2011

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Table of Contents
Bell Siphon Experiments......................................................................................................................3 Introduction......................................................................................................................................3 Objectives........................................................................................................................................3 Method.............................................................................................................................................3 Results..................................................................................................................................................4 Test group 1.................................................................................................................................5 Conclusions......................................................................................................................................5 Test group 2.................................................................................................................................5 Conclusions......................................................................................................................................5 Test group 3.................................................................................................................................5 Conclusions......................................................................................................................................5 Experiment conclusions .......................................................................................................................6 Future thoughts.....................................................................................................................................6 Attachment 1........................................................................................................................................7 Attachment 2........................................................................................................................................8 Attachment 3........................................................................................................................................9

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Bell Siphon Experiments


Introduction
The bell siphon is a siphon that has been used for many years. As far as I can determine, usage in the sewer/drain industry has been around for some considerable time. With the advent and growth of aquaponics, it appears that the bell siphon has gained some popularity for faster draining of flood and drain growing systems. It doesn't appear to have been utilised within the hydroponics industry even though they also utilise flood and drain as one of the variations in hydroponic growing. The advantage of the bell siphon, as promulgated by aquaponics proponents, is that the faster draining of the nutrient water from the grow bed enhances the flow of air/oxygen to the plant roots in the growing medium. This is when compared to just letting the water drain out of the grow bed via some small draining hole. I haven't come across any research that backs this up. The Aquapot system is another system that provides nutrients access to growing plants. This system has a Smart Valve that enables nutrient to be delivered to the base of a plant which takes up the nutrient via a wicking process. It does not flood and drain. Instead it allows the nutrient to be taken up at the rate of the plant requirements, then before allowing further nutrient to flow, a period of drying out of the roots is allowed, before more nutrients are released. This is supposed to be duplicating the process in nature where rain comes and waters the plant and then has a drying out period before further rain. Another system utilised to provide nutrients to plants is the gravity/vacuum system. It is a closed system consisting of a growing tray and an air tight drum. The nutrient flows into the grow bed, when it reaches a predetermined level then the liquid covers an air supply hose that is connected to the nutrient supply tank. A small vacuum is created in this air tight tank and the nutrient stops flowing until the nutrient level falls again. I have had a preliminary attempt to link a bell siphon to a gravity/vacuum system to see if I could duplicate (in a similar way) the Autopot system (which has its actual operation as a secret although it seems to consist of two small float valves connected somehow). So far I haven't had a lot of success as the bell siphon has operated intermittently plus the vacuum line sucks up the nutrient and then stops flow altogether. So I decided to investigate, in more detail, the operation of the bell siphon as the next step.

Objectives
To determine any key aspects of the bell siphon that ensure it operates when needed.

Method
Key aspects (1)Identify key measurements of the bell siphon. (2)Vary measurements where possible, and (3)determine any conclusions that are apparent especially with regard to(4) flood and drain systems as well as my (5)combined bell/gravity/vacuum
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system. Basic method Build a small bell siphon and vary dimensions to see effects.

Results
(1) Identify key measurements of the bell siphon There are 16 dimensions that could have an impact on the siphon operation. These are listed below with remarks about possible importance.: Co de B Gap height Description Important Important Not so important as the air gap above it. Don't think this is an issue. O is a critical issue related to A and E Important Interesting effects vary depending on diameter of this pipe and its formation (e.g.90 degree bend etc) As long as it is above the standpipe this would not be an issue. Refer to G Refer to G Important Interesting not sure See F Not important as this is a result of the stand pipe and air gap. Important related to stand pipe and air gap

A Bell internal diameter C Standpipe height D Standpipe outside diameter E F Stand pipe internal diameter Stand pipe drop

G Height of air break above base H Height of air break I J L Distance of air break from inside bell top Water level rise rate Stand pipe outlet size/shape

K Stand pipe inlet shape M Height of water at siphon operation/start N Inside bell height

O Ratio of the standpipe ID to the bell ID Important as it relates to the amount of liquid running in the siphon P Size of the water cutout/inlet holes at bottom of the bell Important

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Test group 1
Stage 1: For a fixed standpipe height, the length of the bell was varied. Stage 2: The size of the inside diameter of the standpipe was varied plus the output pipe diameter was varied plus and elbow added. Stage 3: Put a wider top on the stand pipe.

Conclusions
1) A certain minimum height above the stand pipe is required to ensure the siphon effect will occur. 2) A minimum liquid input rate is required for the siphon effect to commence. If it is too slow, then the water just runs out of the standpipe without starting the siphoning effect. 3) With smaller input holes and straight output pipe (smaller) the siphon effect commences but soon stops but, put an elbow in the outlet and the siphon effect goes further but never goes low enough to allow air to enter. Note 1: The size of the holes at the bottom of the bell is very important . I think I had them too small and this probably impacted on the results of the test. 4) With a larger hole on top, siphon starts no problems with straight through outlet pipe. 5) With a restricted outlet the siphon eventually stops but doesn't fully turn off. Note 1 could also apply is this result.

Test group 2
Stage 1: Use a smaller diameter bell. Bell ID 29.5mm and Standpipe ID 14.4mm Ratio of Bell ID to Standpipe ID is 2.05 Initial ratio in Test group 1 was Bell ID 38.5 to Standpipe ID 29.5 ratio 1.31

Conclusions
1) With straight through outlet worked well with 15mm gap (or more) above standpipe 2) When fitted with a reduced output and 90 degree elbow in output the siphon didn't cut off fully. 3) Could also play with reduced output (using tap) and worked OK when straight through.

Test group 3
Stage 1: Reduced height of stand pipe but kept ratio of 2.05 the same.

Conclusions
1) Again worked well with various heights and air gap above stand pipe of 15 to 20 mm. Note 2: The size of the holes at the bottom of the bell is very important . I think I had them too small and this probably impacted on the results of the test at various times.

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Experiment conclusions
1) A paper I read, put out by University of Hawaii regarding Bell siphons, recommended a ration of bell internal diameter to standpipe internal diameter of 2:1. This has been validated in my tests. 2) Although I have never seen measurements regarding the size of the cutouts in the bottom of the bell, they are important. It seems logical to make the area of the cutouts as large as possible to cater for the fluid flow when the siphon commences. If the area could be made as close as possible to the area of the bell ID this would be good for example, by just having small legs at the bottom of the bell at least as long as the air gap on the top of the bell. 3) The output pipe size and direction has an effect on the siphon. However I am not sure of this effect. The University of Hawaii paper recommends two 90 degree bends with a short connection between the two as a means of assisting the siphon. 4) The flow rate into the bell has to be slightly more than the flow rate out of the standpipe, otherwise the siphon effect will not commence. This eliminates the possibility of using a bell siphon by slowly filling drip by drip I feel. - which may make my idea of combined bell/vacuum/gravity system non-workable.

Future thoughts
1) To overcome the slow rate of flow int the bell siphon, a balance system could be set up that slowly filled with drips and when it reaches a certain level, then it tips into the bell. This should provide enough flow to get the siphon working. At the least the bell fills to the top of the standpipe until the next drip fill. Set up a small system to test this theory. 2) I need to test the wicking effect of clay balls. Use a glass bottle with dry clay balls, add a small amount of water via a tube, and see if I can observe any wicking effect. 3) I need to calculate amounts of water that come from the bell siphon and that can flow into the grow bed. 4) Try to work out some flow calculations regarding the siphon. 5) Also need to set up a of of concept with the bell siphon (ratio 2:1), smaller in size plus the water balance system.

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A Bell ID

Attachment 1

Distance of air break from inside bell top Standpipe ID E B Gap height

Bell siphon dimensions

K Stand pipe inlet shape C

H M Height of water at siphon operation /start

Water level rise rate (inflow)

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Height of air break

Standpipe height

G Standpipe drop F

Height of air break above base

Standpipe outlet size/shape

L D Standpipe OD

Attachment 2
Gravity/vacuum system

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Attachment 3
Bell siphon vacuum/gravity concept

Air tight nutrient supply container Nutrient pipe

Bell siphon

Float Drip/fill overbalance system installed here Nutrient pipe

Grow bed

Vacuum/ Air line

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