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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE IMPACT OF THE IMPULSE VALVE ON THE

PERFOMANCE OF A HYDRAULIC RAM



BY



DUMISANI ELIA SIWINDA
(E-mail: dumisanisiwinda@ymail.com, Mobile: +265 999 061 449)


PROJECT REPORT SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF AGRICULTURE IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN IRRIGATION ENGINEERING


UNIVERSITY OF MALAWI
BUNDA COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE


MAY 2011


i
ABSTRACT
A study was conducted to find the effect of mass and stroke on the discharge and frequency
of a weighted impulse valve of a hydraulic ram. In the study a hydraulic ram with a weighted
mass impulse valves was set at a drive head of 1.7 m and a delivery head of 9 m in the
Agricultural Engineering Department at Bunda College of Agriculture. Three impulse masses
of 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 kg were tested against impulse valve strokes of 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20
mm.
The results from the study showed that mass and stroke had significant (p<0.05) effect on
frequency and discharge of the hydraulic ram. As the mass and stroke increased the
frequency decreased. A decrease in the mass and stroke resulted in an increase of the
frequency. As the mass increased the discharge decreased and as the mass decreased the
discharge increased. As the stroke increase the discharge increased.
The results also found that frequency has an effect on the discharge. As the frequency
increased the discharge decreased. The maximum discharge for the hydram was 6.3 l/min at
frequency of 1.79 beats per second using a mass of 0.5 kg and stroke of 16 mm. The
corresponding efficiency was 38.05%.
Finally the study found that the pump had an efficiency range of 11.40% to 38.42%.
However the maximum efficiency did not occur at highest discharge obtained. It was
concluded that for best performance the pump should be set with a 0.5 kg impulse valve at a
stroke of 16 mm.



ii
DEDICATION
I dedicate this study to my father John Tuwakali Siwinda, my mother Alefa Kachinjika-
Siwinda and my brother Kennedy Siwinda for all the love, care and support they have been
giving me from the time I was an infant with no knowledge in Engineering up to date with
my brain almost saturated.



iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to give my sincere gratitude to my project supervisor Dr. W. M. Kamthunzi for
all the academic and social support rendered during my stay at Bunda College. He was not
only a supervisor but also a caring and understanding father.
I also want to thank and appreciate the social, spiritual and emotion support from my lovely
girlfriend Angella Chikadza. She was really an encouragement during the times of
depression. Her input can never be ignored.
My appreciations also go to my best room mate and friend Decolius Kalumo, my best
friends, Geoffrey Juma and David Mtekateka, and the following friends, James Nangoma,
Keneth Lusaka, Felix Nkhoma and the 2010/2011 Irrigation Engineering graduating class of
the University of Malawi- Bunda College of Agriculture for their support.


iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS

APPROVAL ............................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................................................ i
DEDICATION ........................................................................................................................................ ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................................................................................................... iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS ........................................................................................................................ iv
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................. 1
OBJECTIVES......................................................................................................................................... 3
Main Objective ................................................................................................................................... 3
Specific Objectives ............................................................................................................................. 3
LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................................................................ 4
MATERIALS AND METHOD ............................................................................................................... 7
Impulse valve ...................................................................................................................................... 7
Experimental set-up ............................................................................................................................ 7
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION .............................................................................................................. 9
The effect of mass and stroke on the discharge .................................................................................... 9
The effect of frequency on the discharge ........................................................................................... 11
The efficiency of the hydraulic ram ................................................................................................... 12
CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................................... 13
RECOMMENDATION ........................................................................................................................ 14
REFERENCES ..................................................................................................................................... 15









1
INTRODUCTION
Malawi is a developing country located in sub Saharan Africa with an agro-based economy.
She has a population of 13.1 million people (National Statistics Office, 2009). Irrigation is
essential for meeting the basic food and economic needs for the 13.1 million people in the
country. As efforts are being made to increase irrigation agriculture in the country, several
pumping devices are being employed that range from non-motorized to motorized. However
there are many challenges being faced by these new pumping technologies. Some of the
challenges are depletion natural resources due to emission of gasses, operating cost, difficulty
in operation and difficulty in repair and maintenance.
A hydraulic ram also known as hydram is one of the technologies for water pumping that
people use. The pump overcomes some of the challenges mentioned. It uses the energy of the
water itself to pump water. The pump does not require any energy input for operation.
Furthermore the pump is environmental friendly than other technologies that use fuel such as
motorized pumps. The hydraulic ram has very few moving parts and has low maintenance
costs. The pump can work 24 hours a day and requires no attention.
A hydraulic ram consists of drive pipe, delivery pipe, gas chamber, an impulse valve (or
waste valve) and a delivery (check) valve. The air chamber has a sniffer valve for replacing
air into the chamber to ensure good performance and avoid damage. In operation, the
hydraulic ram uses the principle of a water hammer (Watt, 1975; Fraenkel, 1995). There are
two basic designs of the impulse valve. One design uses springs while the other uses a mass
to keep the impulse valve open and control the opening and closing frequency as well as the
valve stroke.
The valve is normally open and water begins to flow from the source and comes out through
the waste valve under the effect of supply head. When the water drag force overcomes the
mass or spring tension of the impulse valve, the valve suddenly closes and this creates a high
pressure (water hammer) in the system. This high pressure forces open the delivery valve and
pushes water into the air chamber and out through the delivery pipe. As the pressure
dissipates inside the hydraulic ram, the spring or mass on the impulse valve forces the valve
to open and allow water to flow once again from the supply pipe and out through the impulse


2
valve. When the flow of the water reaches the critical value, the impulse valve is forced to
close and the cycle begins again.
This project evaluated the performance of a hydraulic ram with a weighted mass impulse
valve and variable opening stroke. The performance of the hydraulic ram was measured in
terms of discharge, opening and closing frequency or beats per second and the hydraulic ram
efficiency.


3
OBJECTIVES
Main Objective
The main objective of the study was to evaluate the performance of a hydraulic ram with a
weighted impulse valve as a function of mass and stroke of the impulse valve.
Specific Objectives
The specific objectives of the study were the following:
a) To determine the effect of mass and stroke of an impulse valve on the discharge,
opening and closing frequency and pumping efficiency.
b) To determine the effect of the impulse valve opening and closing frequency on the
pump discharge.


4
LITERATURE REVIEW
Hydraulic rams have been there for more than 200 years ago (Frankael and Thake, 2006).
They were used in the ancient Greece, China and Egypt. The first hydraulic ram was built by
John Whitehurst of Cheshire in the United Kingdom in 1772 (Whitehurst, 1775). According
to Whitehurst (1775) this pump was not automatic since its operation was manually
controlled by opening and closing the valve. It managed to lift water to a height of 4.9m.
Joseph Montgolfier, a Frenchman and a best known co-inventor of hot air balloon, was the
first person to come up with an automatic hydraulic ram in 1796 (Frankael and Thake, 2006).
However his design hard no sniffer valve for air replacement as such its air would eventually
got absorbed resulting into an intensive banging in the mechanism. It was his son Pierce
Montgolfier who introduced the sniffer valve for air replacement in the air chamber.
Hydraulic rams have been used to pump water for drinking, domestic use and agriculture. For
instance in the United Kingdom hydraulic rams called Compound pumps were used to pump
treated water for drinking (Whitehurst, 1775). According to Whitehurst (1775) some
communities even used untreated water source to pump drinking water using hydraulic rams.
In Malawi very few places have ever used a hydraulic ram. Some of them are Mua Catholic
Mission in Dedza, Kapesi Village in Dedza and Dwale EPA in Thyolo district. In these
places the pump was used to pump water for drinking and irrigation.
Over the past two decades different design parameters of hydraulic rams have been
discovered and studied. It has been discovered that hydraulic rams operate on drive head
within the range of 0.9 m to 15 m with a maximum delivery of 150 m and only 22% of the
delivery is pumped (Smith, 2010). According to Clemson University (2010) delivery output
is given by the equation:
ܳ

= 0.6 × ܳ

×


(1)
Where: Qd= delivery flow rate
Qs= supply flow rate
h = delivery head
H= drive head



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As the delivery head increase the discharge decrease and as the delivery head decrease the
discharge increase.

According to Smith (2010) a hydraulic ram can deliver water at a height 25 times the drive
head and 22% of the drive supply can be extracted if the delivery head is twice the drive
head. Smith (2010) also found that output as low as 2% of the supply flow rate can be
pumped if the drive head is 4% the delivery head. In areas where the output of a single pump
is insufficient a battery of two or more is used to increase the output.

Hydraulic ram impulse valve has frequency range of 25 to 300 cycles per minute (Frankael
and Thake, 2006). The frequency is affected by the diameter of the drive pipe (Koth, et al,
2011). An increase in diameter results into an increase in frequency leading to faster wear
and tear of the valve shaft making it to be a part that requires frequent attention (Frankael and
Thake, 2006). However hydraulic ram can work for long period with little maintenance or
none at all. For instance in East-Central Tennessee a hydraulic ram has been recorded to
work from the 1920s through the 1970s (Koth, et al, 2011). Mohammed (2010) further found
out that high opening and closing frequencies is a symptom of either the drive pipe is too
short or the or the waste valve has less weight while low opening and closing frequencies is a
symptom of either the drive pipe is too long or the valve has more weight.

The length of the drive pipe has a significant effect on the performance of the hydraulic ram.
For the best results the length of the drive pipe is governed by the Calvert equation (1957):

ܮ = 150 <


< 1000 (2)
Where: L = the length of the drive pipe
D= the diameter the diameter of the drive pipe

As the water flows through the impulse valve, a drag force is created that tends to close the
valve. The drag force on the waste valve is given by the formulae (Taye, 1998):

F

= C

× A

× ρ

×


ଶ୥
(3)
Where: Fd = drag force on the waste valve


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Cd = drag coefficient Av = cross section area of the waste valve
V = velocity of flow in the drive pipe
g = acceleration due to gravity
The drag coefficient for circular disc is 1.12 (Taye, 1998).

The efficiency of a typical hydraulic ram is about 60% (Twidell and Weir, 1986). If the ram
installation is not large enough to pump the amount of water required, a battery of rams
consisting of two or more rams can be used. The battery of rams should have a common
delivery pipe but separate drive pipes to each ram. The efficiency is given by the D’Abuisson
equation:
ܧ = ሺQd × hሻ ÷ሺQs ×Hሻ
Than (2008) found that to obtain high discharge the efficiency should also be high. Unlike
the drive pipe, the delivery pipe is not a critical feature on the hydraulic ram. The delivery
pipe can be made from any material, provided it can stand the pressure of the water leading
up to the delivery tank (Watt, 1975). Inversion (1978) established that it is possible to build a
hydraulic ram from commercial high-pressure pipe fittings


7
MATERIALS AND METHOD
Impulse valve
An impulse valve with a weighted valve was constructed using a 50 mm galvanized nipple
(figure 1). The valve had an opening of 30 mm. The closing of the valve opening was done
by a 40 mm rubber disc that was fixed to a 30 cm long rod that carried a mass. The rod was
also used for adjusting the stroke. Fixed to the valve was a rod support that helped the
vertical movement of the valve. This valve was placed on a hydraulic ram. The mass kept the
valve in an open position when not in operation.


Figure 1: Diagram of an impulse valve
Experimental set-up
The hydraulic ram was installed with a drive head of 1.7m and 7.6m long (figure 2). The
delivery head was fixed at 9 m. Masses of 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5kg. Each mass was fixed on the
impulse valve at different stroke settings of 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20mm. For each mass and
stroke combination the following were recorded: drive flow rate by dividing change in supply
volume by time, frequency by counting number of beats per unit time and discharge by
dividing water received in a cylinder by time taken.



8

Figure 2: Installation of the hydraulic ram


9
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The effect of mass and stroke on the discharge
Table 1 shows the discharge as a function of impulse valve mass ad stroke. The analysis of
variance (ANOVA) at 0.05 level of significance showed that there is a significant difference
in the discharges obtained. From Figure 3 as the stroke increased the discharge also increased
for each of the impulse masses. This is because as the stroke increased the valve opening
increased too leading to an increase in water flow rate in the drive pipe. As such there was
more momentum that pushed the delivery valve hence increased its opening leading to high
discharge. However as the stroke increased, a point was reached where the discharge began
to decrease. From the results each mass has a range of stroke where it was able to operate.
Beyond certain stroke the valve would not work. As the mass increased the range decreased
while as the mass decreased the range increased this is why some masses have no discharge
values at some points. However increase in mass resulted to a decrease in discharge and the
opposite as shown in figure 3.
Table 1. Discharge as a function of impulse valve mass ad stroke
Mass (kg)
Stroke (mm)
1 2 4 8 12 16 20
0.5 1.15 2.64 3.54 5.2 5.32 6.3 5.47
1 0.91 2.24 3.32 3.77 3.19 2.81 -
1.5 0.77 2.04 2.37 - - - -



0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
0 5 10 15 20 25
d
i
s
c
h
a
r
g
e

(
l
/
m
i
n
)
stroke (mm)
0.5 kg
1.0 kg
1.5 kg


10
Figure 3: Discharge (l/min) against Stroke (mm)

The effect of mass and stroke on the frequency
Table 2 gives the impulse valve frequencies. From the laws of physics both mass and stroke
have an inverse relationship with frequency. From the Figure 4 as the mass increased the
frequency decreased and as mass decreased the frequency increased. This is because large
masses require more force to be lifted up. As such water had to accelerate for some in order
to create enough drag force to lift the valve hence increasing the period for one complete
cycle. As the stroke increased the frequency decreased and as the stroke decreased the
frequency increased (Figure 4). The increase in stroke increased the distance to close the
valve hence increasing the time taken for one complete cycle.

Table 2. Impulse valve frequency
Mass (kg)
Stroke (mm)
1 2 4 8 12 16 20
0.5 4.5 3.17 2.92 2.26 2 1.82 1.67
1 4 3.38 1.85 1.7 1.55 1.32 -
1.5 3.87 2.61 1.77 - - - -



Figure 4: Graph of Frequency (beats/sec) against Stroke (mm)
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
0 5 10 15 20 25
f
r
e
q
u
e
n
c
y

(
b
e
a
t
s
/
s
e
c
)
stroke (mm)
0.5 kg
1.0 kg
1.5 kg


11
The effect of frequency on the discharge
Table 3 shows the discharge of the hydraulic ram as a function of impulse valve frequency.
From Figure 5 as the frequency increased the discharge increased up to some optimum point
beyond which the discharge began to decrease although the frequency continued to increase.
High frequencies after the optimum lead to small velocities that generated little momentum
hence a small opening of the check valve leading to little water being delivered into the
delivery.

Table 3. Impulse valve frequency and discharge
Mass
(kg)
Parameter
Stroke (mm)
1 2 4 8 12 16 20
0.5
Q (l/min) 1.15 2.64 3.54 5.2 5.32 6.3 5.47
f (beats/sec) 4.5 3.17 2.92 2.26 2 1.82 1.67
1
Q (l/min) 0.91 2.24 3.32 3.77 3.19 2.81 -
f (beats/sec) 4 3.38 1.85 1.7 1.55 1.32 -
1.5
Q (l/min) 0.77 2.04 2.37 - - - -
f (beats/sec) 3.87 2.61 1.77 - - - -

Figure 5: Discharge (l/min) against frequency (beats/sec)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
0 1 2 3 4 5
d
i
s
c
h
a
r
g
e

(
l
/
m
i
n
)
frequency (beats/sec)
0.5 kg
1.0 kg
1.5 kg


12
The efficiency of the hydraulic ram
The hydraulic ram has a maximum efficiency of 38.42 % and a minimum efficiency of 11.4
%. However the highest efficiency was not obtained at highest discharge although the lowest
efficiency was obtained at lowest discharge. Table 4 gives the hydraulic ram pumping
efficiencies obtained from the study.

Table 4. Hydraulic ram efficiency and discharge
Mass
(kg)
Parameter
Stroke (mm)
1 2 4 8 12 16 20
0.5
Q (l/min) 1.15 2.64 3.54 5.2 5.32 6.3 5.47
E (%) 22.42 29.43 38.42 37.52 31.34 38.05 28.96
1
Q (l/min) 0.91 2.24 3.32 3.77 3.19 2.81 -
E (%) 15.74 25.9 23.28 19.6 14.9 11.4 -
1.5
Q (l/min) 0.77 2.04 2.37 - - - -
E (%) 11.89 21.07 15.83 - - - -



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CONCLUSION
The results from the study have shown that the mass and stroke of a weighted impulse valve
have a significant effect on the discharge and frequency of a hydraulic ram. Increasing the
mass reduces the frequency and reducing the mass increases the frequency. As the stroke
increase the frequency decrease and as the stroke decreases the frequency increase. The
results have also show that as the stroke increase the discharge also increases up to a point
beyond which the discharges begin to decrease. While as the mass decrease the discharge
increase.

As the frequency increase the discharge increase up to optimum point. Beyond the optimum
as the frequency increase the discharge decrease.

The ram was found to have a maximum efficiency of 38.42 % and a minimum of 11.4 %
occurring at discharge of 3.54 l/min and 1.32 l/min respectively. However the pump has a
maximum discharge of 6.3 l/min. The pump also has an optimum frequency of 1.79 beats per
second.



14
RECOMMENDATION
Based on the results from this study, a recommendation is made to operate the hydraulic ram
with an impulse valve mass of 0.5 kg and a stroke of 16 mm in order to obtain the maximum
discharge.



15
REFERENCES
1. Frankael, P. and J. Thake, 2006. Water Lifting Devices, FAO: Schumacher Centre for
Technology and Development, UK.
2. Holdman, G., 2005. Hydraulic ram Surprise. Midwest Renewable Resources Energy
Fair, Alaska.
3. Hydraulic Ram (online), www.autonopedia (accessed on 13March,2011)
4. Hydraulic Ram (online), www.wikipedia.freeencylopedia, (accessed on13 March,
2011).
5. Koth, P., Pumps Traditional (online), www.apuaafrica.co.za (accessed on
13Mach,2011)
6. Mohammed, S.N., Design and Construction of a Hydraulic ram. Federal University of
Technology. Mina, Nigeria.
7. Schiller, E.J., The Hydraulic ram. Paper presented at the “Proceedings of a workshop
on a Hydraulic ram technology”: Arusha, Tanzania. May-June, 1984.
8. Smith, B., Home Made Hydraulic ram. Cooperate Extension Service: Clemson
University, Lourens County.
9. Taye, T., Hydraulic ram: Journal of ESME, Vol II, No. 1, July 1998, Energy Business
Group: Ethiopia.
10. Than, P.M., Construction and a Performance Testing of a Hydraulic ram: GMSARN
International Conference on Sustainable Development; Issues and Prospectus of the
GMS, 12-14 Nov, 2008.
11. Twidell, J. W., and A. D. Weir. 1986. Renewable Energy Resources. E. & F. N. Spon
Ltd. London.

12. Watt, S. B. 1975. A Manual on the Hydraulic Ram for Pumping Water. Intermediate
Technology Publications Limited. London.