Some feel the hydraulic industry is staid and conservative when it comes to advancement. Sure, I’ll admit the fluid power business tends to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but there is a recent advancement about to change the whole game.
My regular readers will have picked up that I’m a fan of quantum physics, which is the science of particles at a subatomic level. You can imagine my excitement when a news article came across my desk about a recent advancement in fluid dynamics: Superfluidity.
Superfluidity isn’t new; it was discovered early last century that helium turns into a superfluid when cooled to within two degrees Kelvin of absolute zero. When helium is in a state of Superfluidity, it has ZERO viscosity. Zero viscosity means zero resistance to flow. The helium molecules are completely frictionless as they maintain a structure of being arms length from each other, never interacting to exchange energy.
A hydraulic system running a zero-viscosity fluid would transfer hydrostatic energy with absolutely no line, friction or flow related losses. You could literally run thousands of GPM through ¼” tubing with no backpressure. Actually, in a rare example of multi-entity co-operation, it has been recently released that Eaton, Parker, Bosch Rexroth and the CIA have completed the first prototype superfluid hydraulic system.
The superfluid hydraulic system is submerged in the world’s largest super cooled vat of liquid nitrogen, and preliminary testing has confirmed they achieved 100 L/min flow through a 1mm ID nanotube made from synthetic diamond with no flow related pressure drop measured. A side benefit of the hydraulic system emerged in liquid nitrogen is the ability to use superconducting electric motors.
NASA has shown interest in this technology, where near-absolute zero temperatures can be more easily achieved at the International Space Station. Who knows, perhaps the next “Canadarm” robot arm will be powered using super cooled helium superfluid!