The Beauty of a Vortex….

Written By: Market Development Director, Hydro International.

Admiring the beauty and elegance of natural patterns and processes is something that I believe all us engineers do.  The vortex is a particular object of fascination for water and drainage engineers because of its simplicity and power.

Yet, as Leonardo Da Vinci once said: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – and simplicity can take a lot of hard work for designers to achieve.

As it uses no power other than the energy of the water itself, vortex technology is inherently sustainable.  It therefore feels like a very contemporary solution, yet it is well proven.

Vortex flow controls are used in thousands of applications worldwide in all shapes and sizes – from giant flood prevention schemes, to everyday small-catchment drainage schemes.

Now latest step-changes in engineering development are moving the technology on once again, particularly in the design and application of the ‘Hydro-Brake’, which through its own success, has become an industry-standard term for flow controls.

National Standards

In the UK, new National Standards for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) will place increased expectations for controlling the flow and quantity of surface water in new developments.  Vortex technology provides the ideal solution – but its design and specification need careful consideration to meet the required standards effectively.

Compared with conventional technologies such as an orifice plate, penstock or slide gate valve, the flow of water out of a vortex flow control has much less energy per unit of cross- sectional area. It is therefore, much less likely to cause scouring or physical damage to downstream structures, protecting sensitive wetlands, ponds, basins or watercourses, even preventing damage to sewer infrastructure.

Bringing water quality back under control not only combats flooding, also but facilitates effective stormwater treatment.  The reduction of peak flows causes less of a short-term shock pollutant load to the receiving waters and allows increased dilution.

It’s no secret that many vortex flow controls on the market are based on Hydro-Brake® technology.  The name ‘Hydro-Brake’ has become a generic term – rather like the ‘Hoover’ to vacuum cleaners, or ‘Biro’ to ballpoint pens.  The specification of a ‘Hydro-Brake or equivalent’ is standard practice to designers using industry-standard modelling software packages.

Imitation may be a sincere form of flattery, but in the case of vortex technology, substituting one product with another could lead to disaster.  Whilst the technology may appear simple and elegant, the differences in engineering are significant.

New technology standard

Now developments in vortex flow control technology by Hydro International have enabled new standards in design versatility to be reached, dispensing with the need to choose from a range of sizes and types. With the new technology of the Hydro-Brake OptimumTM from Hydro International engineers have complete flexibility to design each unit for absolute fit and to balance flow rates and surface water storage requirements to suit each drainage project.  The result is optimised hydraulic efficiency and a storage saving of up to 15% compared with earlier technology, or alternative devices.

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