Hydraulic accumulators are energy-storing or “vitality-stockpiling” devices akin to rechargeable batteries in electrical systems. They are designed to store energy provided by pressurized fluid whenever needed which can be later extracted as required, making them an indispensable tool for efficient aircraft hydraulic systems used in landing gear. The advantages of using hydraulic accumulators include, but are not restricted to, lesser power requirements, reductions in systemic heat, and readily available energy. Thus, seeing how accumulators can be beneficial in contributing to aircraft efficiency, learning about them is imperative.
Hydraulic accumulators are cylindrical storage units with metal casings affixed within hydraulic systems, and they are usually filled with non-toxic and non-reactive gasses such as nitrogen. Resembling a cylindrical chamber containing a piston, accumulators are made of durable metals such as aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, or fiber-reinforced composites. A pressure vessel holds the gas and a moderately-compressible hydraulic fluid, such as oil or water, separated by a rubber bladder or a piston. Furthermore, some accumulators also contain a spring that can be compressed either pneumatically or through a calculated weight.
Engineers exploit the property of compressible nitrogenous gas against the moderately-compressible, pressure-driven oil held separately within the accumulator. When in operation, definitive parameters will determine the computational weight and amount of gas to be stored in the accumulator. Once gas gets pumped within the accumulator’s container, it builds up pressure at a fixed volume. Apart from acting as a reserve for energy storage, hydraulic accumulators also help power chassis suspensions, deflate pressure peaks, and work to absorb vibration, shock, and pulses.
Depending on their intended application, hydraulic accumulators are categorized into the following types:
Hydraulic accumulators in the United States are manufactured and certified according to the statutory precedents set by ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code VIII, Division 1. All components covered under this code serve a finite service life and should only be handled by trained personnel. In addition, performing any welding on an accumulator shell is strictly prohibited, alongside installing any automotive valve cores in lieu of high-pressure alternatives. Furthermore, hydraulic fluid in use should be kept clean to extend the life of the seal and all other accompanying components.
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