The use of the watermill, attested in Europe since very ancient times (it is described in the Vitruvian architectural treatise), precedes the use of the windmill. Its development took place parallel to the end of slavery since the ninth century: the use of hydraulic energy instead of animal or human allowed an increase in productivity unprecedented in antiquity (the energy produced by each wheel of a water mill can grind 150 kg of wheat in an hour, equivalent to the work of 40 slaves). The watermill, as well as the windmill, was supplanted in the eighteenth century by the advent of the steam engine and, subsequently, by the electric motor.
Typically, water is diverted from a river or basin and driven to the turbine or the water wheel through a channel or pipe. The strength of the movement of the water, combined with the effect of the blades of a wheel or turbine, determines the rotation of the axis that drives the other machinery of the mill. The water, leaving the wheel or the turbine, is drained through a tail channel that can also act as the head channel for another turbine of another mill. The passage of water is controlled by floodgates that allow maintenance and a minimum flood control measure; large mill complexes can have dozens of control locks and complicated interconnected pipelines that feed more buildings and industrial processes. In some plants, the water intended for the operation of the same was transported by a canal and stored in a tank adjacent to the mill.
June 20th, 2018
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