How Does a Peristaltic Pump Work? An Explanatory Guide

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What is a peristaltic pump?

A peristaltic pump is a liquid pump that utilizes a pinch-and-roll mechanism along flexible tubing to push liquid forward or backward. 

To be specific, a peristaltic pump uses positive displacement from compression and relaxation to create pressure differences much like our body does every day. Each time you swallow and digest food your muscles contract and relax. This action creates a wave-like motion to push contents along (hence the anatomy and physiology definition of peristalsis, and the naming of a peristaltic pump). This same sort of motion happens when squeezing out that last bit of toothpaste.

The main benefit of this pump is that no cross-contamination will occur during an experiment or continuous process. The liquid is contained entirely inside the flexible tubing and will not come into contact with the pump motor or mechanical pieces.

How Does a Peristaltic Pump Work? An Explanatory Guide

How does a peristaltic pump work?

A peristaltic pump consists of a simple pump motor, roller wheel (sometimes called shoes or rollers), and a flexible tube. The flexible tubing wraps around the rollers like a horseshoe and the motor spins the rollers to create the pinch-and-roll pressure mechanism discussed above. And that’s it!

The simplicity and ingenuity of this peristaltic pump allow the pump to easily move liquid in either direction. Also, since it pinches and creates a vacuum, no backflow of liquid will occur which is very important in applications like dialysis.

By adjusting the size of the pump, the size of the tube, rollers, and the size of the pump heads, the flow rate can be easily controlled and adjusted. Flow rates from around 0.3 to 20 gallons per day can be achieved from a peristaltic pump based on the possible size adjustments.

How Does a Peristaltic Pump Work? An Explanatory Guide

What is a peristaltic pump used for?

Peristaltic pumps can be used in a variety of applications due to their simplicity and variability in size and flow rate. Primarily, peristaltic pumps are most appropriate for applications where liquid contamination cannot occur, like a dialysis procedure, or where containment is necessary—like pumping out hazardous waste from a mining operation.

In short, any application where it is important that nothing enters the flow system, and nothing escapes, will create a great use case for a peristaltic pump.

In the world of water treatment, hydroponics, or general water applications that require monitoring (like a backyard pool), a peristaltic pump is a great tool. Scheduled doses of chlorine can be added with a peristaltic pump to control disinfection efforts, or chemicals like liquid phosphate to prevent pool scale can be easily controlled with a peristaltic pump.

A peristaltic pump paired with a pH probe and ORP device will create fantastic proactive conditions for practically any water application, especially swimming pools, for monitoring and controlled peristaltic pump action to maintain proper water quality measurements.

Additionally, water treatment plants can add measured amounts of flocculant, or agricultural operations can methodically add vitamins to livestock feed using a simple peristaltic pump. In any scenario, the benefit of having a low energy-intensive pump paired with no cross-contamination is very high—especially in water applications.

Benefits of peristaltic pump

As discussed above, the number one benefit of a peristaltic pump is the elimination of possible contamination. This provides an advantage for most liquid applications since purity and accurate measurements are usually required.

Another advantage is the easy repair and maintenance of a peristaltic pump. Due to the design, the flexible tube is the only component to receive wear and tear and is easily replaceable. Most flexible tubes consist of extremely durable material and are also easy to replace without taking apart the whole pump. Big thumbs up for repair and maintenance on peristaltic pumps.

Since the peristaltic pump has a small number of components, flow rate control and customizability is another advantage of this pump. By altering the size of the components, and the spin rate of the rollers, many different flow rates from around 0.3 to 20 gallons per day can be achieved. This flow direction is also reversible, say for dialysis, adding another advantage to the peristaltic pump portfolio.

Lastly, we’ve discussed many liquid applications, but heavy-duty peristaltic pumps can incorporate a wide range of viscosities up to very thick sludge and slurries. Since they are also dry running and self-priming, this is a great advantage for mining operations or lab experiments that change liquids frequently. 

How long do peristaltic pumps last?

Actual peristaltic pump life can vary based on the environment, liquid, flow rate, etc. Additionally, because they are highly customizable from the tube material to the roller size, it is difficult to pin down the lifespan of each pump or tube. 

As a rule of thumb, creating a preventative maintenance plan to check the flexible tube every 200 to 1000 hours is recommended based on the severeness of the pump environment. 

For typical water quality applications, flexible tube life should last much longer than 1000 hours of run time. However, for corrosive experiments with acidic pH or abrasive slurries be sure to check in on the tubing closer to the 200-hour mark. In this way, your peristaltic pump will always be running at peak performance. 

Conclusion

Peristaltic pumps are fantastic machines that can be useful for any application which prioritizes no contamination of the liquid being transported. Due to their simplicity, they can be relatively inexpensive based on size and extremely adept to customization based on the specific application. All paired with low maintenance cost and effort, peristaltic pumps provide great value.

In any case, a peristaltic pump can add value to applications like water quality or medical procedures or agricultural vitamin dosing, and anything in between. By adding common water measurement devices like ORP probes, conductivity probes, dissolved oxygen probes, and others from Atlas Scientific, your process will become and remain a well-oiled machine.

If you would like to learn more about other water quality measurements, characteristics, or applications for peristaltic pumps, do not hesitate to reach out to the world-class team at Atlas Scientific.

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