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Wave of Change: How Water Hydraulics Conquered Lubrication Challenges

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Water’s lower viscosity hinders the formation of full-film lubrication found in oil- hydraulic systems because it is much less likely to form a protective coating on moving parts to prevent abrasive wear. That challenge is overcome by choosing the right materials; plastic and stainless steel. In all of our components at WaterQuest Solutions where two surfaces are touching, one is plastic and the other stainless steel. Through the use of polymer coatings on sliding surfaces and specially developed seals, tribological challenges have been conquered.


At WaterQuest Solutions in all of our components anytime where two surfaces are touching, one is Carbon reinforced PEEK and the other stainless steel.


We exclusively use carbon reinforced PEEK which is a high performance thermoplastic polymer that is used in a wide range of industrial and technological applications. It is known for its combination of high strength, stiffness and heat resistance, making it a popular material choice for demanding applications.


Water-based hydraulic systems have gained attention in recent years as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional oil-based hydraulic systems. With the increasing adoption of water hydraulics, it has become crucial to address the challenges associated with using water as a hydraulic medium, such as material compatibility, corrosion, and wear. One approach to addressing these challenges is by incorporating materials such as stainless steel and PEEK (polyether ether ketone) carbon in areas of contact between water and hydraulic system components. Lets explore how using stainless steel and PEEK carbon in water-based hydraulic systems can lead to improved corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and reduced friction, ultimately resulting in greater reliability, lower maintenance requirements, and longer service life.


Background on Water-based Hydraulic Systems


Before diving into the benefits of using stainless steel and PEEK carbon in water-based hydraulic systems, it is essential to understand the basics of these systems. Water-based hydraulic systems, also known as water hydraulics, use water as the hydraulic fluid instead of traditional oil-based fluids. The primary advantages of water hydraulics include increased safety due to water's non-flammable and non-toxic nature, reduced environmental impact, and lower operating costs. However, water's unique properties can present challenges related to material compatibility, corrosion, and wear, necessitating the use of specialized materials and system designs to overcome these issues.


Stainless Steel and PEEK Carbon: Material Properties


Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, carbon, and chromium that exhibits excellent corrosion resistance, strength, and durability. The chromium content in stainless steel forms a passive oxide layer on the surface, which protects the underlying material from corrosion. This characteristic makes stainless steel an attractive material for use in water-based hydraulic systems.


PEEK carbon is a high-performance plastic reinforced with carbon fibres. PEEK is known for its excellent mechanical, thermal, and chemical resistance properties. The addition of carbon fibres further enhances PEEK's strength, stiffness, and wear resistance. PEEK carbon also exhibits low moisture absorption and low friction, making it suitable for use in water-based hydraulic systems.


Improved Corrosion Resistance


Corrosion is a significant concern in water-based hydraulic systems, as water can cause various metals to corrode, leading to reduced component life and system failures. Stainless steel's inherent corrosion resistance makes it an ideal material for use in water hydraulics. The chromium content in stainless steel forms a passive oxide layer that protects the metal from corrosion, even in the presence of water. This corrosion resistance ensures that stainless steel components maintain their structural integrity, contributing to increased reliability and reduced maintenance requirements.


PEEK carbon's chemical resistance and low moisture absorption also contribute to improved corrosion resistance in water-based hydraulic systems. These properties make PEEK carbon less susceptible to degradation due to water exposure, ensuring that system components made from this material maintain their performance and durability over time.


Enhanced Wear Resistance


Wear resistance is another critical factor in the performance and longevity of hydraulic system components. Both stainless steel and PEEK carbon exhibit excellent wear resistance properties, which can be particularly beneficial in water-based hydraulic systems. Stainless steel's strength and durability make it resistant to wear, while PEEK carbon's combination of high-performance plastic and carbon fibre reinforcement further enhances its wear resistance.


By incorporating stainless steel and PEEK carbon in areas of contact between water and hydraulic system components, wear rates can be significantly reduced. This leads to less frequent component replacement, lower maintenance costs, and extended service life for the hydraulic system.


Reduced Friction


Friction between moving parts in a hydraulic system can lead to energy loss, decreased efficiency, and increased wear. PEEK carbon's low coefficient of friction makes it an ideal material for reducing friction in water-based hydraulic systems. The use of PEEK carbon in areas of contact between water and hydraulic system components can help minimize friction between moving parts, resulting in improved system efficiency, reduced heat generation, and lower energy consumption.


In addition to PEEK carbon, certain grades of stainless steel also exhibit good frictional properties. When combined with appropriate surface treatments and lubrication additives, stainless steel can further contribute to reduced friction in water-based hydraulic systems.


Material Compatibility and System Design Considerations


To fully reap the benefits of stainless steel and PEEK carbon in water-based hydraulic systems, it is essential to consider material compatibility and system design. Both materials are inherently compatible with water, meaning they are less likely to degrade, swell, or be adversely affected by water exposure. However, it is crucial to ensure that other system components, such as seals, gaskets, and hoses, are also compatible with water as a hydraulic medium.


System design plays a vital role in maximizing the advantages of stainless steel and PEEK carbon in water-based hydraulic systems. This includes considering factors such as proper sealing techniques, appropriate component sizing, and system layout to minimize the potential for leaks and other issues. By carefully designing the system with stainless steel and PEEK carbon in mind, it is possible to create a robust and reliable water-based hydraulic system that takes full advantage of these materials' properties.


Real-World Applications and Case Studies


The use of stainless steel and PEEK carbon in water-based hydraulic systems has been demonstrated in various real-world applications and case studies. For example, in the mining industry, water hydraulics have been successfully implemented in long-wall roof support systems, where the use of stainless steel and PEEK carbon components has resulted in increased safety, reduced maintenance requirements, and improved environmental sustainability.


Another example can be found in the marine industry, where water-based hydraulic systems are used for steering and control applications. The incorporation of stainless steel and PEEK carbon components has resulted in increased corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and overall system reliability, even in harsh saltwater environments.


Conclusion


Incorporating stainless steel and PEEK carbon in areas of contact between water and hydraulic system components can lead to significant improvements in corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and reduced friction for water-based hydraulic systems. These benefits contribute to greater system reliability, lower maintenance requirements, and longer service life. By carefully considering material compatibility and system design, it is possible to create robust and reliable water-based hydraulic systems that take full advantage of the unique properties of stainless steel and PEEK carbon. As the adoption of water hydraulics continues to grow across various industries, the use of these materials will play a crucial role in maximizing the potential of this environmentally friendly and cost-effective hydraulic technology.

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