Trash Collecting Water Wheel

baltimore inner harbor water wheel

Picture: Baltimore City

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel collects trash and debris at the outfall of the Jones Falls River, intercepting it before it enters Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Since it began operating, in May 2014, the water wheel has removed over 250 tons of trash from Baltimore’s waterways.

The machine funnels debris using two long booms and lifts it onto a wide conveyor belt. The refuse is then deposited in a dumpster on a separate platform. The wheel powers a conveyor, which lifts the trash from the river. When the current isn’t going quickly enough, the solar-powered pumps below the wheel push up water and get it spinning again.

The water wheel is part of the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, which aims to restore Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, making it swimmable by 2020. A second wheel is being crowdfunded.

See & read more:  1 / 2 / 3 / 4. Thanks to Tim Joye.

Related: Boat Mills

Water-Powered Fire Alarm

reliable water powered sprinkler alarmMid-nineteenth century, water motors operated by tap water became a valuable power source in addition to hand and foot powered machines. Most of these small-scale water motors for indoor use were Pelton turbines, which are up to 90% efficient regardless of their size.

A demonstration of how water power may be used efficiently even on a very small scale is the water-powered fire alarm. The device is still for sale today. Buildings protected by sprinkler systems often have outside alarm bells that are activated by very small Pelton turbines on the other side of the wall.

The hydro-mechanical device signals the flow of water in an automatic sprinkler system. The main flow of water lifts a valve that sends a small amount of water to the little turbine, sounding the bell. The great advantage for fire protection is that the system works independent of electricity.

Picture: a water-powered fire alarm. Source: The Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co. Via The Museum of Retrotechnology.

Water-Powered Washing Machine

water powered washing machine 2portable washing machine

Some machines require both power and water. A household example is the washing machine. By using a small water wheel, the water that is needed to wash the clothes can also serve to power the machine. Washing machines powered by water from the town mains were quite common in the early decades of the twentieth century. The pictures show a portable American model called the “Washerette” (see it in operation in this video). It was connected to a faucet and put on the sink or bathtub so that exhaust water could be easily captured. The images were found at Smokstak.

Floating Grain Mill in Old China

floating grain mill

A Floating Grain Mill on the Hwei River in China (19th/20th century). Source. Previously: “Boat mills: water powered, floating factories“.

Sand-Powered Water Wheel

“Out in the Bodie mining district, California, they have a peculiar motor in use. It is called an arastra, and consists of an overshot wheel operated by sand instead of water. A windmill runs a belt containing buckets, which carry the sand up to a big tank, just as grain elevators carry wheat in a flouring mill. A stream of sand is let out upon the overshot wheel and it revolves just as it would under the weight of a stream of water. The arastras move steadily at their work. When there is much wind, sand is stored up for use when calm weather prevails, so the arastras are never idle. It is perhaps needless to say that the sand is used because water is scarce. The arastra is an invention of a miner named Townsend.”

Quoted from: The Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 0016 Issue 2 (February 1884).

Micromachines: Decentralized Urban Services in South-Asia

VelochariotArchitects Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco have compiled an interesting document that focuses on small-scale technology in countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They photographed, and made technical drawings of miniature taxi’s, family run water turbines, domestic rain harvesting systems, pedal powered kitchens, home digesters, and the like.

The architects consider their work to be a toolbox, a starting point for thinking outside the conventional norms and recepies. They argue that decentralized services are more flexible, provide more autonomy, and are more efficient in space, energy and materials.

Antoni and Blasco present, in their own words, an equivalent to Neufert’s “Architect’s data“, the book for architects that records standardized dimensions for centralized systems. “Micromachins” is written in French but the visuals dominate.

“Micromachins”, Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco, 2011 [download the page to get the high resolution PDF-document]. Thanks to Yann Philippe Tastevin. Update: the architects have added a new link with colour pictures and English translation.