In simplest terms, an accumulator is an energy storage device. Similar to the way a rechargeable battery stores and discharges energy, accumulators store and discharge pressurized fluid. Within a hydraulic system, the role of the accumulator is to allow fluid accumulation under pressure, store that fluid, and return the fluid based on the variance in compression created between liquid and gas. Accumulators provide many benefits to the operation of hydraulic systems, helping in all of the following ways:
There are two primary types of accumulators: bladder and diaphragm. Each works in a different way, but ultimately achieves the same goal. In a bladder accumulator, the hydraulic pump raises the system pressure and pushes the fluid into the accumulator. Next, the bladder moves to compress the gas volume. This is because the fluid pressure will always exceed the pre-charge pressure. This volume of compressed gas is the source of the stored energy. The movement of the bladders stops when the system pressure and gas pressure are balanced.
Diaphragm accumulators work in a very similar way to bladder accumulators, the main difference being that an elastic diaphragm is used to separate the gas and fluid, rather than a bladder. Diaphragm accumulators commonly offer flow and volume of approximately one gallon and are characterized by their minimal weight and good economy. Because their rubber barrier does not suffer from as much distortion as a bladder accumulator, they can handle high compression ratios of up to approximately 10:1. They are able to accommodate a broad range of mounting flexibilities and are less sensitive to contamination than other accumulators. Additionally, as diaphragm accumulators can respond quickly to changes in pressure, they are also suitable for shock applications.
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