Science Projects And Inventions

Archimedes Screw

"An enormous amount of water is thrown out... by means of a trifling amount of labor."  

Diodorus siculus, historian

The Archimedes screw was first mentioned in the writings of Athenaeus of Naucratis in 200 B.C.E. He described the use of a screw mechanism to extract bilge water from a ship named Syracusia, and attributed its invention to Archimedes.

Archimedes (c. 287-212 B.C.E.) himself lived in Syracuse, Sicily, and was devoted to the exploration of mathematics and science. The polymath is thought to have spent time studying in Egypt, and the screw named for him is used in the Nile delta to this day, more than 2,000 years later, as a means to raise water from rivers for irrigation purposes.

The Archimedes screw consists of a helix within a hollow tube, the lower end of which is placed in a fluid. The screw is then rotated and the fluid is lifted up through the spiral chamber to the top of the tube. In ancient times this tool was applied throughout the Mediterranean for irrigation. It was especially used by the Romans in their water supply systems, and as a means of extracting water from their mines in Spain.

Technology took a backward step in the Dark Ages, but the Archimedes screw reappeared in the fourteenth century as a means of supplying public fountains with water. It was then largely superseded by reciprocating pumps, but came into its own in the 1600s for the reclamation of land from the sea, particularly in the Netherlands. Powered by windmills, they raised water from low-lying land up into canals.

The Archimedes screw is still used for drainage and flood control today, but also has many modern applications in oil pumping, sewage treatment, agriculture, and even cardiac medicine.


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