You are on page 1of 15

Liquid Handling Pumps Information

Show all Liquid Handling Pumps Manufacturers

Pumps, in their simplest form, are machines for moving liquids. Industrial liquid handling pumps
include all pumps designed to handle industrial liquid media such as water, wastewater, chemical
slurries, oil, coolant fluid, or sewage.

Pump Operation
In terms of operation, all pumps are ultimately classified as either positive displacement or
dynamic (kinetic). However, since most dynamic pumps in industry are centrifugal pumps, the
distinction is often between positive displacement and centrifugal.

Dynamic (Kinetic)
Dynamic pumps, also called kinetic pumps, include all pumps which use fluid velocity to build
momentum and produce pressure to move the fluid through the system. These pumps are
classified as either centrifugal or specialized based on the method used to induce this velocity.
Centrifugal pumps, which are the most common, use an impeller attached to a shaft which
rotates to provide the energy to generate fluid velocity. The impeller is mounted in a casing which
provides a pressure boundary and channels the fluid through a volute (funnel). The image below
shows a simplified centrifugal pump layout:

Image Credit: Engineers Edge

Centrifugal pumps can be further differentiated based on how they direct flow.

Axial flow pumps lift liquid in a direction parallel to the pump shaft. They operate

essentially the same as a boat propeller.

Radial flow pumps accelerate liquid through the center of the impeller and out along

the impeller blades at right angles (radially) to the pump shaft.

Mixed flow pumps incorporate characteristics from both axial and radial flow pumps.
They push liquid out away from the pump shaft at an angle greater than 90.

Some unique dynamic pumps induce velocity in a fluid through specialized means other than an
impeller. These include jet ejector, reversible centrifugal, gas lift, hydraulic ram, and
electromagnetic pumps.
For more information on centrifugal pumps, visit the How to Select Centrifugal Pumps page on

Positive Displacement
Positive displacement pumps provide pump pressure through fixed volumes which expand and
contract to push fluid through a system. This direct application means that the flow rate
generated by these pumps is relatively constant, and varies only based on the speed at which
the pump runs. The moving parts in these pumps operate in either a rotary or reciprocating
Rotary pumps use a rotor to move fluid, where parts (gears, ridges, vanes, etc.) of the rotor act
as dividers between chambers. As the rotor rotates, liquid is forced through and out the pump.
The image below shows a simplified vane-type rotary pump layout:

Vane rotary pump. Image Credit: FAO Corporate Document Repository

Reciprocating pumps move fluid using linear rather than rotary motion. They operate by moving
a piston or diaphragm back and forth through a cylinder. Fluid moves in at the upstroke (suction)
and out through a check valve on the down-stroke (discharge). The image below shows a
simplified hand-operated reciprocating pump:

Hand-operated reciprocating pump. Image Credit:

For more information on positive displacement pumps, visit the How to Select Positive
Displacement Pumps page on Engineering360.

Pump Parameters
Pump operation and performance can best be described by a few fundamental parameters; flow
rate, pressure, head, power, and efficiency.

Flow Rate
Volume flow rate (Q), also referred to as capacity, is the volume of liquid that travels through the
pump in a given time (measured in gallons per minute or gpm). It defines the rate at which a
pump can push fluid through the system. In some cases, the mass flow rate ( ) is also used,
which describes the mass through the pump over time. The volume flow rate is related to mass
flow rate by the fluid density () via the equation:

When selecting pumps, the flow rate or rated capacity of the pump must be matched to the flow
rate required by the application or system.


Pressure is a measure of resistance: the force per unit area of resistance in

the system. A pressure rating in a pump defines how much resistance it can handle or overcome.
It is usually given in bar or psi (pounds per square inch). Pressure, in conjunction with flow
rate and power, is used to describe pump performance. Centrifugal pumps, however, typically
use head (described below) instead of pressure to define the energy or resistance of the pump,
since pressure in a centrifugal pump varies with the pumped fluid's specific gravity.
When selecting pumps, the rated operating or discharge pressure of the pump must be equal to
or more than the required pressure for the system at the desired flow rate.

Head is the height above the suction inlet that a pump can lift a fluid. It is a
shortcut measurement of system resistance (pressure) which is independent of the fluid's specific
gravity. It is defined as the mechanical energy of the flow per unit weight. It is expressed
as a column height of water given in feet (ft) or meters (m). In other words, if water was pumped
straight up, the pump head is equivalent to the height it reaches.

Pump head (H) can be converted to pressure (P) using the specific gravity (SG) of the fluid by the
P = 0.434 H (SG)
or by the density of the fluid () and the acceleration due to gravity (g):
When selecting centrifugal pumps, the rated pump head must be equal to or greater than
the total head of the system (total dynamic head or TDH) at the desired flow rate.
Selection Tip: Pump head in a centrifugal pump will be he same for all liquids if the shaft is
spinning at the same speed. The only difference between fluids is the amount of power needed to
get the shaft to the proper speed (rpm). The higher the fluid's specific gravity (SG), the more
power is required.

Another specification to consider is net positive suction head (NPSH) - the difference between the
pump's inlet stagnation pressure head and the vapor pressure head. The required NPSH is
an important parameter in preventing cavitation in a pump. Cavitation happens inside a pump
when the local pressure falls below the vapor pressure of the liquid being pumped, causing the
liquid to boil.
Selection Tip: The pressure inside the pump should be above the NPSH to avoid cavitation,
which can result in noise, vibration, reduced efficiency, and damage to impeller blades.

Net head is proportional to the power actually delivered to the fluid, called output power (Pout) or
the water horsepower (measured in horsepower or hp). This is the horsepower rating which
describes the useful work the pump will do to the fluid. It can be calculated by the equation:
Pout =

gH = gQH

is fluid density
g is the acceleration due to gravity
Q is the volumetric flow rate
H is the pump head
is the mass flow rate
In all pumps there are losses due to friction, internal leakage, flow separation, etc. Because of
these losses, the external power supplied to the pump, called the input power (Pin) or brake
horsepower, is always larger than the water horsepower. This specification is typically provided
by the pump manufacturer as a rating or in the pump's performance curve and is used to select
the proper motor or power source for the pump.
Selection Tip: When determining the required power from a typical pump performance curve
(discussed below), it is best to use the values at the end of the curve to ensure adequate supply
at most operating conditions. For operations with little system variation (e.g. refineries), use the
value at the operating point plus 10%.

The ratio between the water horsepower and brake horsepower (useful power vs. required
power) describes the pump efficiency (pump):
pump = Pout/Pin
Keep in mind that any efficiency rating of the pump given by the manufacturer assumes certain
system conditions such as the type of fluid transported: water is a typical standard. The
efficiency may not be accurate if these assumptions differ from the consumer's intended
Selection Tip: A more efficient pump is not always the best choice when considering energy
costs. For example, a pump that runs at 40% efficiency would be a better choice than one in the
same family which is 60% efficient but requires twice the power.

Pump Performance Curves

All pumps have a characteristic or performance curve that describes the flow rate produced at
net or total head. Pump specifications relating head and flow rate correlate to those found on its
characteristic curve. A simplified curve for a centrifugal pump will look something like this:

Original Image Credit:

The pump curve illustrates the available total head at a given flow rate of the pump.
Generally, more head is available in the pump as flow rate decreases. Manufacturers usually
designate an optimum or best efficiency point (BEP) of the curve, which is indicated in this
graph by the dotted line. Thus, this pump runs best when supplying a net head of 100 ft, which
will provide a flow rate of 23 gpm.
When selecting a pump for incorporation into a system, users should map the system
curve alongside the pump curve. A simplified incorporation of this curve will look something like

The system curve illustrates the required head for different flow rates in the system. It is
constructed using a form of Bernoulli's equation for fluid mechanics, which is beyond the scope of
this guide. Generally, more head is required as flow rate increases due to frictional forces and
other losses in the system. The operating point of the pump in a system should be where the
pump curve and system curve intersect. The best pump choice for a system is one in which the
required operating point intersects at the pumps BEP.
Selection Tip: Since every system is unique and has specific head requirements, the best choice
mentioned above is not always commercially available.

Positive displacement pumps do not utilize fluid momentum, meaning that flow rate is relatively
independent of pump head. Thus, (unlike dynamic pumps), positive displacement pumps have a
definitive capacity across a wide range of head pressures (as shown in the characteristic curve
below). Slippage is the result of high discharge pressures causing some liquid to leak back to the
pump suction, reducing capacity.

Image Credit:

Failure results when the total head of the system exceeds the maximum head of the pump.

Types of Pumps
Any pump type which can handle an industrial liquid can be considered an industrial liquid
handling pump. However, variation in design makes different pumps suitable for particular
The diagram below provides an overview of pump classification by type.

Image Credit: Pdhengineer

The number of different pump types can be overwhelming to even an experienced engineer. The
following table provides and overview of the basic categories and their general properties.

Centrifugal Pumps

Reciprocating Pumps

Rotary Pump





Pressure (Head)




Maximum Flow Rate

100,000+ GPM

10,000+ GPM

10,000+ GPM

Maximum Pressure

6,000 PSI

100,000+ PSI

4,000 PSI

Requires Relief Valve




Flow Type




Flow Characteristic




Space Considerations

Require Less Space

Requires More Space

Initial Costs




Maintenance Costs




Energy Costs




Liquids Recommended

Water and low viscosity

(thin) liquids. Can pump
solutions with solids given
proper impeller. Liquid
should not contain gas

Viscous liquids, dirty

chemicals, tacky glue and
adhesives, oil, and
lubricating fluids. Specialty
fitted pumps can handle

Requires Less Sp

Optimum for viscous

Requires clean, clea
abrasive fluid due to

Table Credit: PDHengineer

This next table further breaks down pump classification into specific types, and provides a
summary of the features, advantages, and recommended liquids associated with each. To learn
more about selecting a certain type of pump, click on its associated link under the pump type
Pump Type



Parent Type






Dynamic, special




Single stage
(generally), high
specific speed
impeller for high
capacity and low

Water and low

viscosity (thin)
liquids. Can pump
solutions with solids
given proper impeller.

high flow rate
very low head,
requirement fo
and many cool

Single or multistage,
medium specific
speed impeller for
medium head and
medium flow.
Generally mounted

Water and low

viscosity (thin)
liquids. Can pump
solutions with solids
given proper impeller.

radial and axia
for medium flo
medium head.

Single or multistage,
low specific speed
impeller for high head
and low capacity.

Water and low

viscosity (thin)
liquids. Can pump
solutions with solids
given proper impeller.

Lowest flow ra
highest head o
centrifugal pum

Provides torque to
impeller via inner and
outer magnets.
Isolated inner-can
with no shaft

hydrocarbons, and
other liquids which
are difficult to seal or
pose serious
consequences with
leakage; high
temperature fluids or

mechanical se
large compone
pump mainten
costs); leak-fre

liquids prone to costly

evaporative losses.


Dynamic, special




Rotary Vane




Horizontal end suction

pump with ejector on
pump or located in
well. Ejects liquid via
high pressure fluid
through venturi

Domestic water wells

and liquid/gas

Rugged and sim

construction; le
operation. Goo
variable well

Liquid pumped
between two gears
and surrounding
casing. There are
internal and external
gear types.

Oils and other high

viscosity liquids.
Usually only suited for
clean liquids (no

Most widely us
clean oil servic
moving parts;


Roller or shoe that

squeezes a tube or
hose as it rotates. The
squeezing action
moves the liquid
along the tube.

Wide range of liquids

including liquids
containing solids and
corrosive liquids.

Requires no se
keeps the liqui
the tube, mean
zero leakage. G
for handling of
chemicals or
disinfectants a
precise meteri


Rotor with vanes

located in slots
rotates in an
eccentrically shaped
casing. As rotor turns,
vanes move in and
out of the slots.

Oils and other high

viscosity liquids.
Usually only suited for
clean liquids (no
solids). Also good for
thin liquids like
gasoline and water.

Good for both

and thin liquids
chosen for term
and truck unlo
where many ty
liquids are han


Two-screw pumps
make use of timing
gears. Triple-screw
types use one screw
to drive the others
and don't include
timing gears.

Oils, fuels, and other

high viscosity liquids.
Also handles twophase liquid/gas

Provides highe
rate of positive
displacement p


diaphragm driven by
a solenoid,
mechanical drive, or
fluid drive. Contains
inlet and outlet check

Wide range of liquids

including liquids
containing solids and
corrosive liquids.

Handles a wide
of liquids, inclu
liquids contain
solids; pump is
sealless, and c
dry without da
the pump.


One or more double

acting pistons or
single acting
plungers, sealed with
o-rings against
cylinder walls.

Water and other thin

liquids. Piston pumps
recommended for
liquids containing

Plunger pumps
provide best m
achieving high
pressures. Pist
pumps are bet
abrasive liquid
speeds may m
less maintenan

Table includes content from Pump Scout -Pump Types Guide


Pumps and their various components are made up of a number of different materials. Media type,
system requirements, and the surrounding environment all are important factors in material
selection. Some materials used are described below.
Cast iron provides high tensile strength, durability, and abrasion resistance corresponding
to high pressure ratings.
Plastics are inexpensive and provide extensive resistance to corrosion and chemical attack.
Steel and stainless steel alloys provide protection against chemical and rust corrosion and
have higher tensile strengths than plastics, corresponding to higher pressure ratings.
Other materials used in pump construction include:
When selecting the material type, there are a number of considerations that need to be taken
into account.
Chemical compatibility - Pump parts in contact with the pumped media and addition additives
(cleaners, thinning solutions) should be made of chemically compatible materials that will
not result in excessive corrosion or contamination. Consult a metallurgist for proper metal
selection when dealing with corrosive media.
Explosion proof - Non-sparking materials are required for operating environments or media with
particular susceptibility to catching fire or explosion. See the Explosion Proof Pumps Selection
Guide for more information on pumps designed specifically for these applications.
Sanitation- Pumps in the food and beverage industries require high density seals or sealless
pumps that are easy to clean and sterilize.
Wear - Pumps which handle abrasives require materials with good wearing capabilities. Hard
surfaces and chemically resistant materials are often incompatible. The base and
housing materials should be of adequate strength and also be able to hold up against
the conditions of its operating environment.

Media Properties
Industrial liquid handling pumps are distinguished as those pumps which deal with moving
industrial liquids. However, there is a broad range of media under the scope of industrial fluids.
Selecting the right pump thus requires an understanding of the properties of the liquid in the
addressed system. These properties include viscosity and consistency.
Viscosity is a measure of the thickness of a liquid. Viscous fluids like sludges generate higher
systems pressures and require more pumping power to move through the system. In many cases,
positive displacement pumps are better suited for handling higher viscosity fluids. Low viscosity
liquids like water and oil which generate low head are generally better suited for dynamic
(centrifugal) pump types.
Consistency is the material makeup of the liquid solution in terms of chemicals and undissolved
solids. Positive displacement pumps are generally better suited for handling these solids,
but dynamic pumps which are designed correctly (i.e. with certain impeller blades) can handle

them as well. Solutions with corrosive chemicals should be handled by pumps with materials and
parts designed to withstand corrosion.

Impeller Design
When selecting the right pump, the buyer may have to consider the design of the pump beyond
its type and specifications. Impeller design is important for proper centrifugal pump
Closed designs are best used for water pumps, as the vanes totally enclose the water for best

Closed propeller design. Image Credit: Mcnally Institute

Open and semi-open propellers are less likely to clog than closed designs, making them
better suited for more viscous media.

Open propeller design. Image Credit: Mcnally Institute

Vortex impellers have a unique semi-open design which is the best solution for solid and
"stringy" materials, but are up to 50% less efficient than other designs.

Vortex impeller design. Image Credit: Egger Pumps

Single stage and multi-stage describe the number of impeller stages in a centrifugal pump,
which affects the achievable head of the pump. When a higher head pressure is required, a multistage pump is generally more economical to implement than a more complex single stage pump.

A two-stage pump system. Image Credit: Hydraulic Pump & Motor Troubleshooting

Simplex and multiplex describe the number of cylinders in a reciprocating pump, which
determines its overall capacity. Simplex reciprocating pumps have only one cylinder while
multiplex pumps have more than one. Most reciprocating pumps use two or three cylinders.

Power Source
Pumps can be driven by a number of different power sources. The most common are electric
motors, but many other types exist.

AC powered - pump operates on a form of alternating current (AC) voltage, typically

from an AC motor.
DC powered - pump operates on a form of direct current (DC) voltage, typically from

a DC motor or battery.
Air (pneumatic) - pumpis poweredusing a compressed air source.
Combustion engine (gasoline or diesel) - pump is powered using a gasoline or

diesel engine.
Hydraulic - pump is powered by a hydraulic system.
Steam - pump is powered by steam.

References and Resources

Chemical Engineers Resource Page - Centrifugal Pumps: Basic Concepts of Operation,
Maintenance, and Troubleshooting (pdf)
Engineering Toolbox - Classifications of Pumps
IT University - Positive Displacement Pumps (pdf)
Mcnally Institute - Open vs. Closed Impeller Design
PumpScout - Pump Types Guide
Pdhengineer - Pumps - Centrifugal vs. Positive Displacement
Rain For Rent - Pump Training

Image Credit: U.S. Plastic Corporation | Wilden Pump & Engineering, LLC.
Read user Insights about Liquid Handling Pumps

Related Products & Services

Dosing Pumps
Dosing pumps are low-volume fluid pumps with controllable discharge rates used to inject
additives into the mixing or pumping system.
Gear Pumps
Gear pumps use intermeshing gears to pump various types of liquids. Typically, one gear is
the driver and the other is free wheeling. The gears have very tight tolerances so that the
fluid being pumped cannot pass through them. Common uses for gear pumps include high
pressure, metering, and flow control applications.
Magnetic Drive Pumps
Magnetic drive pumps are sealless pumps that use a coaxial magnetic coupling to transmit
torque to an impeller. A standard electric motor drives a set of permanent magnets that are
mounted on a carrier or drive assembly.
Plastic Pumps
Plastic pumps are designed to move fluids that would corrode or damage other types of
pumps. They provide broad chemical resistance and are less costly and lighter in weight than
metal pumps.
Positive Displacement Pumps
Positive displacement pumps use a mechanical force such as gears, bladders, pistons,
plungers or diaphragms to push liquid through and out of the pump.
Sanitary Pumps
Sanitary pumps are used to transport and meter solutions, slurries, and colloids of food and
agricultural materials in operations such as food processing that require cleanliness. There
are four basic types of sanitary pumps: centrifugal, positive displacement, jet, and airlift.
Syringe Pumps
Infusion or withdrawal syringe pumps provide high pressure and high accuracy for
applications such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Used to deliver precise
amounts of fluid at specific time intervals.
Supplier Datasheets
View Suppliers by State
View Datasheets by Spec
Related Products