Water Circuit: Water Wheel

Principles of Science: Fluid Motion, Conservation of Energy, Alternative Energy

The paddles on the wheel act as buckets and the weight of the falling water pushes the wheel around. This is a Breastshot wheel – where water is introduced just over halfway up the side. This type of wheel is the most energy efficient, but there are other types of water wheels.

In an Overshot wheel, water falls onto the paddles at the top and the weight makes the wheel rotate forward. In an Undershot wheel, water flowing under the wheel pushes the paddles around. All types of water wheels harness the energy of moving water and use it to do work. If the axle of this wheel were attached to a bucket of water using a rope, it could raise it up a well.

A Breastshot wheel was once commonly used to power textile machines—machines that made fabric. Today, a water wheel placed in a flowing river could be attached to an electrical generator to produce electricity. This method of electrical power generation is more efficient and causes less pollution than coal burning power plants used today.