Hydraulic systems are commonly used in aircraft to move and articulate landing gear, flaps, and brakes. Larger aircraft will also use them to handle flight controls such as ailerons and flaps, spoilers, thrust reversers, and more. Hydraulics are popular because they transmit high amounts of pressure and force with a small volume of liquid, which is very useful in the aviation industry, where space and weight aboard an aircraft are at a premium.
Hydraulics use principles of hydrodynamics, the study of how fluids can be used to move mechanical components. One of these principles is Pascal’s Law, which states that pressure exerted on a confined incompressible fluid is transmitted equally in all directions throughout the fluid such that the pressure ratio remains the same. This means that small amounts of force applied to hydraulic fluid can translate to high amounts of pressure elsewhere, creating a highly efficient method for actuating components.
Hydraulic fluids must be able to transmit pressure, lubricate moving parts of the hydraulic system, and act as a coolant at the same time. Oil with these qualities will have a low viscosity for easier filling of all lines and aluminum pipes, but must retain these properties over a wide temperature range. The three types of hydraulic fluid currently used are vegetable-based, mineral-based, and synthetic-based.
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