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What is a Pelton Wheel?

By Emma G.
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Pelton wheel is a high-efficiency water turbine. Water turbines are used to make electricity and serve as industrial power sources. The Pelton wheel works by extracting energy from the forward momentum of the water. Turbines that use this method to extract energy are called impulse turbines.

A Pelton wheel consists of two basic parts, the turbine and the penstock. The turbine is shaped like a wheel. The rim of the wheel is covered with buckets shaped like scoops. As water hits these scoops, it changes direction. Most of the energy in the water is transferred to the wheel, which causes it to turn.

The wheel is attached to a shaft. The shaft is connected to a generator, which converts the rotational energy into electric power. Hydropower is one of the world's most widely used renewable energy sources.

Since the Pelton wheel uses water instead of compressible gas, all the energy can be removed in a single stage. By contrast, using steam to harness energy requires multiple turbines. After the steam works on one turbine, it must be compressed again. The process is repeated until all the energy is extracted from the steam. In order for the Pelton wheel to reach maximum efficiency, the water must be moving twice as fast as the buckets.

The penstock is the apparatus that brings water to the wheel. The penstock has a nozzle with an opening smaller than the width of the pipe. As water is forced through this smaller opening, the water pressure decreases, but the speed at which the water moves is increased.

The Pelton wheel was designed in the 1870s. It is named after its creator, Lester Allan Pelton. Pelton was an American inventor. He is generally considered one of the fathers of modern hydroelectric power. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Water turbines were first developed in the 1800s. They convert the energy from moving water into a form useful for industrial purposes. Modern water turbines are used to make electricity in hydroelectric plants.

Turbines can be divided into two categories. Impulse turbines like the Pelton wheel use the kinetic energy of water to move the turbine. Reaction turbines rely on water pressure to move the turbine. This type of turbine must be fully submerged in the water flow. In order to operate efficiently, they must also be encased so that suction is maintained.

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