Fluid Hydraulic Accumulator - General Application

Hydraulic and Pneumatic Knowledge
Fluid Power Equipment

Fluid Hydraulic Accumulator

A hydraulic accumulator is a pressure storage reservoir in which a non-compressible hydraulic fluid is held under pressure by an external source. The external source can be a spring, a raised weight, or a compressed gas. An accumulator enables a hydraulic system to cope with extremes of demand using a less powerful pump, to respond more quickly to a temporary demand, and to smooth out pulsations. It is a type of energy storage device.

Compressed gas accumulators, also called hydro-pneumatic accumulators, are by far the most common type.

Like an electrical storage battery, a hydraulic accumulator stores potential power, in this case liquid under pressure for future conversion into useful work. This work can include operating cylinders and fluid motors, maintaining the required system pressure in case of pump or power failure, and compensating for pressure loss due to leakage. Accumulators can be employed as fluid dispensers and fluid barriers and can provide a shock-absorbing (cushioning) action.

On military equipment, accumulators are used mainly on the lift equipment to provide positive clamping action on the heavy loads when a pumps flow is diverted to lifting or other operations. An accumulator acts as a safety device to prevent a load from being dropped in case of an engine or pump failure or fluid leak. On lifts and other equipment, accumulators absorb shock, which results from a load starting, stopping, or reversal.

Compressed Gas Accumulator

A compressed gas accumulator consists of a cylinder with two chambers that are separated by an elastic diaphragm, a totally enclosed bladder, or a floating piston. One chamber contains hydraulic fluid and is connected to the hydraulic line. The other chamber contains an inert gas under pressure (typically nitrogen) that provides the compressive force on the hydraulic fluid. Inert gas is used because oxygen and oil can form an explosive mixture when combined under high pressure. As the volume of the compressed gas changes, the pressure of the gas (and the pressure on the fluid) changes inversely. Existing hydraulic accumulator designs are large and heavy due to the need for two storage tanks and do not have the high energy density needed for many applications.

It is possible to increase the gas volume of the accumulator by coupling a gas bottle to the gas side of the accumulator. This is mainly done since a gas bottle normally is cheaper to produce than an accumulator.

The compressed gas accumulator was invented by Jean Mercier, for use in variable pitch propellers.

Compressed Gas Open Accumulator

Hydraulic energy storage systems store energy by compressing air similar to a battery storing energy in an electric circuit. The need for two storage tanks and two accumulators can be eliminated and the entire hydraulic energy storage system is an open loop. The storage requirement is smaller because depressurized air is not stored. The hydraulic open loop accumulator works by drawing air in from the atmosphere and expelling air into the atmosphere. A separate hydraulic pump maintains the pressure balance of the air by increasing the amount of hydraulic fluid in the system. This results in a steady pressure of air and up to 24 times the energy density of a standard hydraulic accumulator.

This hydraulic energy storage system has applications in energy storage for wind turbines, regenerative braking systems for hybrid cars that could partially power the car, and energy storage for power construction equipment.

Spring Type Accumulator

A spring type accumulator is similar in operation to the gas-charged accumulator above, except that a heavy spring (or springs) is used to provide the compressive force. According to Hooke's law the magnitude of the force exerted by a spring is linearly proportional to its extension. Therefore as the spring compresses, the force it exerts on the fluid is increased linearly.

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