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Hydraulics is the transmission and control of power through fluids under pressure. It is one of the most widely used systems in industry today. Depicted below is an illustration of those features common to every hydraulic power transmission system.

Prime Mover

Hydraulic Pump

Hydraulic Control System

Hydraulic Actuator

Output Device

Hydraulics is particularly suited to applications with a need for high forces, fine speed control and high power:weight ratios. Dividing hydraulics into two separate sciences we have: Hydrodynamics: which is the science of moving liquids e.g. fluid couplings, where the kinetic energy of accelerated fluids is utilised to transmit power. Hydrostatics: - which is the science of liquids under pressure. Power transmission takes place when a force is applied to a confined liquid with the liquid moving or flowing to create motion.

Pressure and Flow

Within a hydraulic system there are two factors fundamental to doing work and transmitting power i.e. pressure and flow. Pressure is responsible for pushing or exerting a force or torque and is defined as the force per unit area.

Commonly used units to express pressure include:

N/m2 Pascal Bar Lb/in2




Pressure is created through either a resistance to fluid flow or an applied force attempting to create fluid flow. The only two ways to push on a fluid to create pressure are:

1. Through the use of a mechanical pump 2. Force resulting from the weight of the fluid itself

Flow results in a pipe, containing fluid only when there is a pressure difference between the ends of the pipe. Direction of flow is from the high pressure end to the low pressure end. It follows that the greater the pressure difference the greater the flow rate.

Pascal, who was a French scientist, discovered a principle from which evolved the use of hydraulics in transmitting power and altering forces and motion. Definition:- Pressure applied on a confined fluid is transmitted undiminished in all directions and acts with equal force on equal areas and at right angles to any surface in contact with the fluid.


Pressure Pressure


0.001m2 0.02m2

The cylinder on the left is fitted with a piston having an area of 0.001 m2. A small tube connects this cylinder to the right hand cylinder which is fitted with a piston having an area of 0.02 m2. Liquid is trapped between the two cylinders. Applying a force of 100N to the small piston results in an increase in pressure within the liquid calculated as follows:

Having calculated the system pressure and, knowing the area of the large piston, the load which can be supported by the large piston can now be calculated.