Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Bessler's Wheel could be a powerful Prime Mover.
The question of how much power might be available from Bessler's wheels is often raised and I'd like to argue (again) that those who suggest the wheel may have little useful power are wrong in their assumption.
Bessler's first wheel was only four and a half feet wide by 4 inches thick and he had to respond to the criticism that it was too small to be of any use. His last two wheels, the Merseberg and the Kassel, measured twelve feet in diameter by one foot, and one and a half foot in thickness, respectively. The fact that people thought the Gera wheel was too small suggests that they believed that increasing the size would increase its power - a logical assumption and obviously one that Bessler agreed with
The first wheel was a proof of principle one, and probably the largest he could afford to make at the time. The later, Merseberg wheel, turned at 40 rpm, but the Kassel wheel at only 26 rpm. Bessler said that he "could make my wheel go really slowly, with a gentle rhythm, and it would still be able to raise even greater weights!" The Kassel wheel was designed to turn more slowly than the Merseberg one because he wished to arrange for an endurance test of one month at least and there would be less wear on a slower turning wheel and yet it was able to raise the same seventy pound weight despite the slower speed, supporting his claim which was made some three years before the Kassel wheel was built.
In the case of the Merseburg wheel, Professor Christian Wolff commented on the use of pulleys about which he said, "At the moment it can lift a weight of sixty pounds, but to achieve this the pulley had to be reduced more than four times, making the lifting quite slow." The official certificate issued, described the weight as being seventy pounds and no mention was made of the four-fold pulley, I wonder if the reason for the use of the pulleys was to slow down the lift to make it last longer, just to impress. So perhaps no pulleys were actually necessary?
If we take the Merseburg wheel for example, say the axle was six inches in diameter and the wheel turned at 40 rpm and the distance from the outside yard to roof, some fifty feet. The circumference of the axle was close to 19 inches. With the rope wrapped around the axle, one rotation lifted the rope just over a foot and a half, fifty foot would take just over 30 seconds. Using pulleys to reduce the load would extend the time to perhaps a couple of minutes, just about long enough for all the spectators, of which there were said to be many crowded into the room, to view the lifting process, through the two windows.
The Kassel wheel turned at 26 rpm but was able to lift the same weight as the Merseburg wheel. It was, however six inches thicker than the Merseburg wheel and I suggest it was wider to accommodate additional weight to compensate for its slow rotation. This supports Bessler's claim that he could manipulate the internal design to supply different speeds and load capabilities.
So the visitors and Bessler himself, saw the wheel as having the potential to be made more powerful either by increasing the number or size of the weights, or by reconfiguring the internal mechanisms.
In Apologia Poetica Bessler answers the following question thus; "Could I undertake to construct even larger wheels - and to what size do I think they could be taken?”
Answer - with the help of good assistants I would have thought that something well over 20 ells in diameter would be possible, should anyone think such a thing desirable, and if the Lord should grant me the necessary strength and health."
Twenty ells equals about 37 feet! Imagine how much power you'd get from a wheel that big, and then multiply the number of them by, say ten on a single axle, and then tell me that Bessler's wheel will be useless because it is incapable of supplying enough power to be of any use.
It seems obvious to me that building a wheel capable or turning in either direction is clever but not practical. The first two wheels which were one-way, began to spin spontaneously as soon as their brake was released and were capable of 50 rpm and I suspect would probably do more given the skills of modern engineering. Add in the increase in size, weights and the improvements of configuration possible once the design is understood, and then add more wheels to each axle and you could potentially have a powerful electricity generator.
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