Aircraft hydraulic systems allow operators a way of remotely controlling an array of components by transmitting force through a pressurized fluid. Hydraulics can quickly and accurately generate high forces through lightweight pipes of varying sizes, shapes, and lengths. Furthermore, they serve as the primary sources of power in aircraft systems like flight controls, flaps, wheel brakes, and more.
Modern aircraft have many different types of subsystems, some of which are interlinked. One such system is the hydraulic subsystem, which is utilized for actuating most of the mechanical subsystems, including landing gear, flap brakes, weapons systems, and various others. As a result, it becomes apparent that the hydraulic system is an essential part of aircraft functionality.
A hydraulic system consists of a pressurized liquid within a sealed system that is used to transmit energy. Hydraulic systems take engine power and convert it to hydraulic power via a hydraulic pump. This power can then be distributed through tubing that runs across the entirety of the aircraft. Similarly, this hydraulic power can be changed back into mechanical power by way of an actuating cylinder or turbine.
One of the main parts of the hydraulic system is the actuating cylinder which is tasked with changing hydraulic fluid power into mechanical shaft power. Within the actuating cylinder, a rotating piston is regulated by oil under pressure. The oil is in contact with both sides of the piston head but at varying pressures, and high pressure oil can be pumped into either side of the piston head.
Meanwhile, the selector valve dictates which side of the actuating cylinder will receive the high pressure oil The piston rod of the actuating cylinder is connected to the control surface. As the piston moves out, the elevator moves down and vice versa. At the same time, the selector valve directs the high pressure oil to the appropriate side of the piston head, making the piston move in the actuating cylinder.
As the piston moves, the oil on the low pressure side makes its way back to the reservoir. The pressure differential causes the piston to move, and the force generated by this difference in pressure is ample enough to move the necessary loads. It is important to note that cylinders within boats, planes, and other vehicles are specially designed to carry out the aforementioned process with ease.
The reservoir is responsible for a few different things, some of which we will outline. First, it provides air space for the expansion of the oil due to temperature changes. Additionally, it holds a backup supply of oil to account for the thermal contraction of oil, normal leakage, and volume changes due to operational requirements. The reservoir also provides a place to remove air or foam from the liquid as well as a pressure head on the pump.
There are two types of power pumps, those of which are gear pumps and piston pumps. A gear pump moves fluid based on the number of gear teeth and the volume spacing between gear teeth. This pump type is ideal for operations that need pressures up to 1500 PSI. A piston pump, on the other hand, moves fluid by pushing it through the motion of the pistons within the pump.
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