pump, device to lift, transfer, or increase the pressure of a fluid (gas or liquid) or to create a vacuum in an enclosed space by the removal of a gas (see vacuum pumps under vacuum). The centrifugal pump, the most common kind, consists basically of a rotating device, called an impeller, inside a casing. The fluid to be pumped enters the casing near the shaft of the impeller. Vanes attached to the spinning impeller give the fluid a high velocity so that it can move through an outlet. The reciprocating pump moves a fluid by using a piston that travels back and forth in a cylinder with valves to help control the flow direction. Examples are the lift pump and the force pump. In a lift pump the piston and cylinder are positioned vertically. When the piston moves upward, atmospheric pressure pushes water into the cylinder to fill the empty space beneath the piston. On the downward stroke, the water in the cylinder is forced to flow above the piston. Reversing direction, the piston moves up, allowing more water to come up under it into the cylinder and lifting the water held above it to an outlet pipe where the water flows out of the pump. Since atmospheric pressure will support a column of water no higher than about 33 ft (10 m), a lift pump can raise water no farther than this distance. The rotary pump is like the reciprocating pump in that it allows a fluid to fill a space that then decreases in volume, forcing the fluid out of the space. However, unlike a reciprocating pump, it has no valves and uses one or more rotating components in place of a piston. The jet pump has no moving parts; it uses a swiftly moving fluid to induce motion in another fluid. For example an atomizer, a type of jet pump, uses a high-speed stream of air to pump a liquid, such as a perfume. Compressors are used to pump air or other gases into a closed container. They range from hand pumps to large power-driven devices that furnish compressed air for operating pneumatic machinery and for various other purposes. In nuclear reactors that use liquid radioactive metal, the nonmechanical electromagnetic pump is employed. An electric current is either induced in the liquid metal or is passed through it by electrodes. A magnetic field surrounding the pipe then propels the current-carrying liquid forward.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.