As workhorses for everything from heavy industry and the marine sector to the dishwasher whirring away in your kitchen, hydraulic systems can be found in nearly every direction you look. Based on the law discovered by French mathematician Blaise Pascal that pressure exerted anywhere on an enclosed liquid is transmitted undiminished, hydraulic systems have helped us to carry out amazing feats that were once thought to be impossible.
Indeed, it was with the help of innovations in the science of hydraulics that the industrial revolution was able to kick into gear and hydraulic systems have been hugely important now for hundreds of years. However, while hydraulic systems have made themselves at home in a variety of relatively benign ways, they also act as vital components in some of the most iconic and awe-inspiring structures around the globe today.
As hydraulics experts with a well of experience in repairing, designing and manufacturing systems for a host of clients, the team at HP Hydraulics have a keen interest in the field. With this in mind, we decided to do some digging and look at some of the interesting ways hydraulics have been used for some of the world’s most fascinating structures.
The Bolshoi Theatre – Russia
Being first constructed during the early 19th century, the jaw-dropping national theatre, complete with giant Greek pillars at the front, may not seem a likely place to start for our list of iconic structures that utilise hydraulics and, up until relatively recently, you would have been right making this assumption.
First designed by the Russian architect Joseph Bové, the theatre has been home to the Bolshoi Ballet, one of the oldest and largest dance companies in the world, since its creation. The building has seen many changes throughout its lifetime, spanning the Tsarist, soviet and now modern era of Russian history and during this time has had a host of renovations.
The most recent of these renovations was finished back in 2011, with the total cost of the changes equating to 21 billion rubles (£688 million). One of the changes made was to the theatre’s stage, being transformed into an ultra-modern set which heavily relies on hydraulic systems to operate its control system. This has allowed backdrops, movable floors, portable bridges and platform lifts to all operate efficiently and quietly during a performance.
The Millenium Bridge – Gateshead
It’s always fascinating seeing a hydraulic bridge in action, transforming from a standard crossing into something completely different. However, while hydraulic bridges can be found in a variety of places around the globe, the Millenium Bridge in Gateshead is in a league all of its own.
Opened up to the public just after the turn of the millennium, the bridge is primarily used as a pedestrian and cycling route and crosses over the River Tyne. Due to the unusual way the hydraulic system moves the bridge when river traffic needs to pass under it, the Millennium Bridge is known as the ‘winking eye bridge’.
As the first tilt bridge in the world to use a hydraulic system for its operation, this 50m tall bridge reaches an angle of 40 degrees when at full tilt, allowing large craft to easily pass underneath. The bridge has also been the recipient of a host awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize and the Outstanding Structure Award by the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.
Taipei 101 – Taiwan
As we’ve begun to reach new heights in construction, builders have had to contend with a range of new issues to ensure their structures stay safe. One of the most significant problems that occurs with building skyscrapers and other tall structures is the presence of high wind speeds.
In a bid to stop the adverse effects of high wind speeds damaging taller structures, architects and engineers have been looking to find new ways to protect our buildings. One such innovation can be found in one of the world’s tallest buildings, Taipei 101. As the former tallest building in the world until the completion of the Birj Khalifa in 2010, Taiwan’s mammoth skyscraper has had to deal with a range of adverse weather conditions but has survived them thanks to its ‘tuned mass damper’.
This giant weighted ball sits atop hydraulic cylinders inside the building and is specifically designed to offset the sway of the tower and keep it stable. In 2015, the damper was put to its toughest test when Typhoon Soudelor hit the Taiwanese capital, blasting the tower with winds of up to 145mph. Luckily, the tower stood strong, however, without this hydraulic system, Taipei 101 could have become the scene of terrible tragedy.
Formula Rossa – Abu Dhabi
Whether you’re a roller coaster junkie or someone who likes to steer well away from the theme park, it can’t be denied that these thrill rides are fascinating examples of hydraulic mastery. However, none come close to the world’s fastest roller coaster in the world, the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World.
Hitting speeds of up to 240mph, this insane roller coaster requires its passengers to wear goggles that aren’t dissimilar to the ones worn by skydivers due to the blistering speeds at which they will be travelling. The power and speed that is created by Formula Rossa and most other high-powered roller coasters is primarily down to the hydraulic systems working in the background.
The hydraulic motors and launchers in Formula Rossa allow for its cars to reach a speed of 150mph in under five seconds, producing a whopping 1.7G’s in accelerative force and helping to create the ultimate speed experience.
The Curling Bridge – London
While the other structures on our list may be larger and more iconic, this mention is still an interesting addition nonetheless and Londoners may have seen it in action before. As we’ve already mentioned, hydraulic bridges can be found around the globe, however, the Curling Bridge in Paddington Basin, London is truly unique in its operation.
As the name hints at, the Curling Bridge is different to standard hydraulic bridges as it bends backwards into a curl whenever water traffic looks to exit the Grand Union Canal. Made up of eight triangular sections, each part has its own extendable hydraulic cylinder which extends or retract depending on whether the bridge needs to be lifted or not.
The bridge is great for the area due to its compact design and rolls smoothly up in a matter of a few minutes, meaning traffic need not wait long to be able to resume again.
Invest in a quality system you can trust with HP Hydraulics
Hydraulic systems really are essential to our lives, whether it’s helping to keep skyscrapers aloft or to produce the ultimate thrill ride. However, they’re also essential for a range of other, equally important applications.
If you work in the marine, agricultural, construction or any other industry that utilises hydraulic technology, you’ll already understand how important they are to your operation, which is why you need an expert contractor to supply you with the best systems on the market.
Here at HP Hydraulics, we have spent years helping countless clients with the design and manufacturing of high-quality hydraulics systems. You need a system that is both reliable and fit for purpose, which is why, with our team of industry experts, we’ll help to maximise the productivity of your operation.
If you would like to learn more about how HP Hydraulics can help with your hydraulic systems, get in touch with our team today on 01329 828 877 or visit our website for more information.