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Archimedes' screw was operated
by hand and could raise water
An Archimedes screw in Huseby
south of Vxj Sweden
Archimedes' screw
Archimedes' screw
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Archimedes' screw, also called the Archimedean screw or
screwpump, is a machine historically used for transferring water from a
low-lying body of water into irrigation ditches. The screw pump is
commonly attributed to Archimedes on the occasion of his visit to Egypt,
but this tradition may reflect only that the apparatus was unknown to the
Greeks before Hellenistic times and introduced in his lifetime by
unknown Greek engineers.
1 Design
2 Uses
3 History
4 Variants
4.1 Reverse action
5 See also
6 Footnotes
7 Sources
8 External links
Archimedes' screw consists of a screw (a helical surface surrounding a
central cylindrical shaft) inside a hollow pipe. The screw is turned usually
by a windmill or by manual labour. As the shaft turns, the bottom end
scoops up a volume of water. This water will slide up in the spiral tube,
until it finally pours out from the top of the tube and feeds the irrigation
systems. The screw was used mostly for draining water out of mines or
other areas of low lying water.
The contact surface between the screw and the pipe does not need to be
perfectly watertight, as long as the amount of water being scooped at
each turn is large compared to the amount of water leaking out of each
section of the screw per turn. Water leaking from one section leaks into
the next lower one, so that a sort of mechanical equilibrium is achieved in
In some designs, the screw is fixed to the casing and they rotate together
instead of the screw turning within a stationary casing. A screw could be
sealed with pitch resin or some other adhesive to its casing, or cast as a
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Roman screw used to dewater mines
in Spain
Modern Archimedes screws which
have replaced some of the windmills
used to drain the polders at Kinderdijk
in the Netherlands
single piece in bronze. Some researchers have postulated this as being
the device used to irrigate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Depictions of Greek and Roman
water screws show them being powered by a human treading on the
outer casing to turn the entire apparatus as one piece, which would
require that the casing be rigidly attached to the screw.

The design of the everyday Greek and Roman water

screw, in contrast to the heavy bronze device of
Sennacherib, with its problematic drive chains, has a
powerful simplicity. A double or triple helix was built of
wood strips (or occasionally bronze sheeting) around a
heavy wooden pole. A cylinder was built around the
helices using long, narrow boards fastened to their
periphery and waterproofed with pitch

Along with transferring water to irrigation ditches, the device was also
used for draining land that was underneath the sea in the Netherlands and
other places in the creation of polders. A part of the sea would be
enclosed and the water would be pumped out of the enclosed area,
starting the process of draining the land for use in agriculture. Depending
on the length and diameter of the screws, more than one machine could
be used successively to lift the same water.
An Archimedes' screw was used by British soils engineer John Burland
in the successful 2001 stabilization of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Small
amounts of subsoil saturated by groundwater were removed from far
below the north side of the Tower, and the weight of the tower itself
corrected the lean.
Archimedes' screws are used in sewage treatment plants because they
cope well with varying rates of flow and with suspended solids. An auger
in a snow blower or grain elevator is essentially an Archimedes' screw.
Many forms of axial flow pump basically contain an Archimedes' screw.
The principle is also found in pescalators, which are Archimedes screws
designed to lift fish safely from ponds and transport them to another
location. This technology is used primarily at fish hatcheries, where it is
desirable to minimize the physical handling of fish.
It is also used in chocolate fountains.
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Archimedes' screw as a form of art
by Tony Cragg at 's-Hertogenbosch
in the Netherlands
An Archimedes screw seen on a
combine harvester
The invention of the water screw is credited to the Greek polymath
Archimedes of Syracuse in the 3rd century BC.
A cuneiform
inscription of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (704 - 681BC) has been
interpreted by Dalley
to describe the casting of water screws in bronze
some 350 years earlier. This is consistent with the classical author Strabo
who describes the Hanging Garden as watered by screws. A contrary
view is expressed by Oleson in an earlier review.
The German
engineer Konrad Kyeser, in his Bellifortis (1405), equips the
Archimedes screw with a crank mechanism. This mechanism soon
replaced the ancient practice of working the pipe by treading.
Main article: Screw conveyor
A screw conveyor is an Archimedes' screw contained within a tube and
turned by a motor so as to deliver material from one end of the conveyor
to the other. It is particularly suitable for transport of granular materials
such as plastic granules used in injection molding, and cereal grains. It
may also be used to transport liquids. In industrial control applications
the conveyor may be used as a rotary feeder or variable rate feeder to
deliver a measured rate or quantity of material into a process.
A variant of the Archimedes' screw can also be found in some injection
molding machines, die casting machines and extrusion of plastics, which
employ a screw of decreasing pitch to compress and melt the material.
Finally, it is also used in a specific type of positive displacement air
compressor: the rotary-screw air compressor. On a much larger scale,
Archimedes' screws of decreasing pitch are used for the compaction of
waste material.
Reverse action
If water is poured into the top of an Archimedes' screw, it will force the screw to rotate. The rotating shaft can then
be used to drive an electric generator. Such an installation has the same benefits as using the screw for pumping: the
ability to handle very dirty water and widely varying rates of flow at high efficiency. Settle Hydro and Torrs Hydro
are two reverse screw micro hydro schemes operating in England. As a generator the screw is good at low heads,
commonly found in English rivers, including the Thames powering Windsor Castle.
See also
Screw-propelled vehicle
SS Archimedes the first steamship driven by a screw propeller.
Screw (simple machine)
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Spiral pump
1. ^

Oleson 2000, pp. 242251
2. ^ Online copy of Dalley/Oleson article (
3. ^ Stephanie Dalley, The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: an elusive World Wonder traced, (2013),
OUP ISBN 978-0-19-966226-5
4. ^ Dalley S and Oleson JP, (2003), "Sennacherib, Archimedes and the water screw: the context of invention in the
ancient world" Technology and Culture 44
5. ^ White, Jr. 1962, pp. 105, 111, 168
6. ^ Shankleman, Jessica. "Queen Elizabeth joins the hydropower revolution"
( BusinessGreen, 9
September 2011. Retrieved: 21 July 2012.
7. ^ Shankleman, Jessica. "The Queen's hydro energy scheme slots into place"
( BusinessGreen, 21
December 2011. Retrieved: 21 July 2012.
Oleson, John Peter (1984), Greek and Roman mechanical water-lifting devices. The History of a
Technology, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, ISBN 90-277-1693-5
Oleson, John Peter (2000), "Water-Lifting", in Wikander, rjan, Handbook of Ancient Water
Technology, Technology and Change in History 2, Leiden, pp. 217302 (242251), ISBN 90-04-11123-
P. J. Kantert: Manual for Archimedean Screw Pump, Hirthammer Verlag 2008, ISBN 978-3-88721-
P. J. Kantert: Praxishandbuch Schneckenpumpe, Hirthammer Verlag 2008, ISBN 978-3-88721-202-5.
Nuernbergk, D. and Rorres C.: An Analytical Model for the Water Inflow of an Archimedes Screw Used
in Hydropower Generation", ASCE Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, Published: 23 July 2012
Nuernbergk D. M.: Wasserkraftschnecken Berechnung und optimaler Entwurf von archimedischen
Schnecken als Wasserkraftmaschine", Verlag Moritz Schfer, Detmold, 1. Edition. 2012, 272 papes, ISBN
Rorres C.: The turn of the Screw: Optimum design of an Archimedes Screw", ASCE Journal of Hydraulic
Engineering, Volume 126, Number 1, Jan.2000, pp. 7280
Nagel, G.; Radlik, K.: Wasserfrderschnecken Planung, Bau und Betrieb von Wasserhebeanlagen; Udo
Pfriemer Buchverlag in der Bauverlag GmbH, Wiesbaden, Berlin (1988)
White, Jr., Lynn (1962), Medieval Technology and Social Change, Oxford: At the Clarendon Press
External links
Technology and Culture Volume 44, Number 1, January 2003 (PDF)
( Dalley, Stephanie. Oleson, John
Peter. "Sennacherib, Archimedes, and the Water Screw: The Context of Invention in the Ancient World"
8/15/13 Archimedes' screw - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 5/5
The Turn of the Screw: Optimal Design of an Archimedes Screw, by Chris Rorres, PhD.
PVC archimedean screw pump, how to build a functioning Archimedes screw pump from modern
materials (
"Archimedean Screw" ( by Sndor Kabai, Wolfram
Demonstrations Project, 2007.
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Categories: Pumps Screws Archimedes History of mining Rotating machines Greek inventions
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