How a Gas Pump Nozzle Knows When to Stop

Image for article titled Learn the fascinating mechanics of how a gas pump nozzle knows when to stop

It’s amazing how around us simple physics are We naturally find complex uses, especially in cars. A popular science YouTuber and author has come up with a really engaging way to teach a little about fluid dynamics a gas pump. Turns out the whole invention is a bit genius.

It is a Topic we covered earlierbut this video in particular did a great job visually explain things. Steve Mold may look like the tiredest man in Britain, but he has a fantastic way of describing the complex interplay of physics. He uses neat cutaway models and a split fuel pump to illustrate how it all works. I’m a staunch liberal arts degree holder, and even my cream cheese-soft brain could join in.

How gas pumps know when to turn off

The entire behavior of the fuel pump is based on simple fluid dynamics and the pressure exchange that causes the gas to flow and stops when the gas reaches the top of the tank. I could try to analyze it for you here, but it’s probably safer just to look at the video and Mold’s engaging visual examples of the concepts involved.

What I can tell you is that the gas pump is credited to the incredibly named Sylvanus Freelove Bowser, who sold his first to an Indiana grocery store in 1885. Originally intended for pumping kerosene, Bowser soon realized that the pump was suitable for gasoline, the latest invention; the automobile. Here’s what the Zimmerman driving Museum, so to speak, about the first petrol pumps that didn’t use physics to stop the flow of fuel, but the hand of the employees:

Although his pump was not originally designed for automobiles, in the 1890s Bowser noticed that his invention of the kerosene pump could accommodate the horseless carriages. He added a hose and finally a nozzle to his pump. Clerks counted the number of cranks (pumps) they made with the handle to determine how many gallons were delivered to a customer’s tank (one crank equaled one gallon).

Generally, the clerk would also listen to the car’s gas tank to hear the sound of gas filling. Some employees looked into the hole to see the height of the gas level and to determine when the customer’s tank was full. These methods proved inefficient and dangerous.

By 1910, a dial (to measure the amount of gasoline being pumped) was added to newly manufactured pumps. The retailers, reluctant to invest in a new pump, outfitted their primitive, older pumps with accessory dials. The demand for an even more accurate way to measure purchases led to the design of a visible fuel pump.

In the 1920s the Pressure valve style seen in video became commonSquare, along with electric pumps, although many pumps retained “sight glasses” that allowed drivers to see the quality of the gasoline and the amount being pumped. These gradually diminished as consumer confidence in service stations increased.

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