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Goal: Truly power free Aquaponics?  RSS feed

 
Jay Smithy
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I have a new goal that I have been putting a lot of thought into. That is having an Aquaponics system that may have poer for pump or bubbler, but ideally doesn't need either.
For the sake of concept, I will dismiss using wind or solar in any way, either for power or for mechanical operation of anything.
There is also the concept of using some form of squirrel cage available for some animal, or a Turnstile Caravan for horses or other animal(s), but I will dismiss that as well for sake of concept.
Having volunteered for summer at Bioshere 2 many years ago, I have been inspired by a semi-closed system, in a semi-air-tight greenhouse, where one could use the natural evaporation process, and design the greenhouse to re-circulate  that evaporation back into the water system, and plan on using such concepts for my next and permanent build, but I am also going to dismiss that as well for concept sake.

I also know that if there IS enough difference in elevation, that multiple small streams of water falling into a pool can aerate the water for the fish.
One of the more exotic side of concepts, it may be possible to somehow use differences in air pressure or temperature, but again, that is getting pretty far out on a limb, especially for a system that can operate long-term without any intervention.

So far, I think that the only truly power-free way to lift and circulate water, other than using the above concept of recirculating water through evaporation in a specially designed greenhouse, would be through a clever somewhat high-volume wicking process.
- I really do like the concept of wicking and cappilary action.

Anyone want to take the challenge to figure out other viable alternatives


 
Gurkan Yeniceri
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Hmmm, I am game.

I am thinking like McGyver style. How about a water feature that will shift and lift water and at the same time fill an air tube.

I guess the aeration can be solved with a tromp design or a specific venturi that doesn't clog up.

An endless syphon system that moves water continuesly. Still needs a kick start though.
 
David Livingston
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I think this is one of those ideas that sounds good but it really needs the numbers punched in. Whilst the effects you describe are real the volume of water required may make them impractical .
The larger the system you have the more water you need . It looks to me like its one of those area volume things the ratio of the surface area against the volume goes against you . http://www.tiem.utk.edu/~gross/bioed/bealsmodules/area_volume.html
 
Jay Smithy
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David Livingston wrote:I think this is one of those ideas that sounds good but it really needs the numbers punched in. Whilst the effects you describe are real the volume of water required may make them impractical .
The larger the system you have the more water you need . It looks to me like its one of those area volume things the ratio of the surface area against the volume goes against you . http://www.tiem.utk.edu/~gross/bioed/bealsmodules/area_volume.html


I see what you are saying.
Amount of total water in the system is not a problem, I plan on having a system with essentially thousands of gallons throughout, (The typical IBC tote is a minimum of 250 gallons anyway for just one filled) and building up from there.
I am continuing to check into and learn about capillary action, but thus far, most examples I have seen are actually just siphoning, or require a different density of fluid, or some large difference in atmospheric pressure.
I do also actively realize that I am very close to what could be considered some form of perpetual motion in a way, and as that never actually works, I am trying to stay away from it.
Somehow, somewhere, the system would require some affect from outside. It would be easy to just resort to using solar-electric, or wind-mechanical, which I will likely do, even if as a failsafe, but this concept is a real conceptual challenge, and so it continues to motivate me.
Capillary action is so attractive a concept, although it in the end may be the search for a "free lunch" as they say, thus the perpetual motion angle again.

I know I can set up a system where everything is within an inch or two of height/elevation, and still flow, and that would require only the slightest lift to cause flow.
I also know I can make a system work with a slow flow of water, but aerating the water for the fish cannot be forgotten, and if I can set things up with a difference in height of at least a foot or two for a drop of several rivlets of water into a fish container, that would aerate, but would require that much more of a lift.
In another way, I am also trying to re-create natural processes in some form or other, and if I do that, then it is obvious to me that an enclosed system in some form of greenhouse, utilizing the evaporative process to recycle the water would not only mean very clean to pure water, but height would be almost no consideration, as the evaporation would naturally collect on the top of the structure (roof) anyway. In a way, the easiest and best option.

My real goal here is to exahust all possible options and means of moving water without electricity or mechanical aid, just to see if there is any method I am not aware of or remembering, etc.
In nature, its pretty much only evaporation and capillary action to get water 'UP' from the base water level - unless I have missed something?...


 
Jay Smithy
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I just found something VERY interesting on Youtube...
Assuming it is not just a plain cheat, using outside water, which I don't think it is, my guess is that it is not actually a Perpetual Motion rig, that it would at some point run out or something, but it could keep a flow going for an extended period of time.
As most proposed Perpetual Motion devices go, just a little outside input can keep one going, and although then not actually perpetual motion, a very good way to keep something moving, working or going for a prolonged period of time, and with the addition of just a little outside input, might be functional.



 
David Livingston
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Capillary action works really good until it blocks up . With pure water great however as a real world application with living water not so good as the tubes quickly become blocked  by very small debris. Why do you think trees grow a new system every year
 
Jay Smithy
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Just had a major development, simple, common sense, obvious.
The near-perpetual water fountains, etc. probably work on a simple principle. You put 100% of an amount of water into it, it re-cycles it through, and in the end you come up 10% short or something, and the system would run out or whatever.
In other words, in various ways, a system of some sort, mechanical or electrical (yes, the goes against one of my stated limitations) can be put together that re-cycles the water flow in a way. As the source container empties, it is re-filled, but will in the end not be re-filled totally, or back to its original hieght/fill level, or will be replenished but at a decereasing rate or level. In the end, the source container will empty, but before that happens, it will essentially have provided nearly twice the volume it would have otherwise.
Another simpler example woud be to have a simple water wheel that acts as a generator. As the water goes by, it generates a little power which is then used to re-pump a small amount of water back to the source. The source will stilll eventually will run out, it will come up short, but will have cycled nearly twice what it would have otherwise, -OR- it may be possible to only have to add a figurative 10% of something to the system to keep it going.
Thus, it might require a much smaller pump, and much less electricity to keep the system going, which if nothing else is some serious efficiency.
If using a waterwheel of some sort, either plumbing/mechanical or electric, the scoops/cups/whatever could be made in a way that as the water falls from it, it causes as much disturbance in the water below as possible to oxygenate the water as much as possible.

Not exactly what I was looking for, but it would make a very big difference in either the end demand for power, or to increase the amount of water flow for any given pump.
 
Jay Smithy
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Question:

As hot/heated air rises, it draws cooler air in behind/under/etc it, easily, swiftly.

If hot water also rises, now much of a drawing effect will it have on cooler water behind it in the line?

 
Jay Smithy
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Just found something very interesting - Simple, simple, simple...
A different kind of "Bubble pump" that I could incorporate into a solar water heater...

 
Benjamin Dees
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A pond of appropriate size doesn't require any power, if your oxygen exchange area is large enough.  Might not even need to be very deep, depending on your climate.  According to my Googling, a fully-grown tilapia needs about 15 square feet of surface area in an un-aerated pond.

So, you have three ponds, all at approximately the same elevation and depth.  Two for duckweed.  One for fish.  The fish pond is covered, and the rainwater from this cover is directed into the other two.

When it's time to do a water change, you siphon water out of the first duckweed pond, to a certain level, and throw it away.  Then you siphon water out of the fish pond and into the first duckweed pond.  Then you siphon water out of the second duckweed pond and into the fish pond.  And finally you siphon water out of the second duckweed pond and into the first duckweed pond.

Then the duckweed ponds get filled up with rain before the next water change.

These are example water levels, showing how they change at each step:

duckweed824458
duckweed888658
fish664666

 
David Livingston
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Jay
Yes no moving parts but still needs a lot of power power = money although a system where you have a solar cell or wind turbine and a battery and something to trigger the start when you have enough power might be good  even no moving part but I still think it would be more efficient with a normal pump
 
David Livingston
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There used to be a system in France that involved three fields Year one field flooded small fish added . Year two at the end of the year Field drained , Frogs and big fish eaten, little fish moved to a year one field (well it is France ) year three plant veggies , then back to year one  no power needed .

David
 
Amit Enventres
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I was working on this like 5 years ago and my research indicated that the trick that may work is that warm water rises. So, a solar water heater connected to a pond with one connector up and one down may get you the circulation you need. I haven't had the opportunity to try yet though.
By solar water heater I mean spiral of black hose. There were some YouTube videos on this 5 years ago. Good luck!
 
William Pilgrim
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Location: Maryland Eastern Shore
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Lots of stuff to chew on here. First, all of this changing of energy forms is always going to be at less than 100% efficiency, and then you need to account for filtration and flow restrictions within the design character (fluid dynamics). Pretty much all of Newton's laws are conspiring against you, so embrace it and go buy a super efficient pump. Air lifts still require an energy consuming air pump to overcome the static pressure, and I think the rest of the near perpetual motion devices all suffer from impracticability when applied to any kind of functional scale, even with a little helper.   The waste water of flow through designs are just that, a huge waste, and most "semi-closed" systems' aren't much better, what with all of their regular water changes of huge amounts, and the general misuse of the resultant affluent.

Having worked with aquaponics, intensive aquaculture, and a wide variety of different types of systems I've become somewhat jaded in my orthodoxy regarding latest crazes such as has been the recent re-treading of aquaponics, so please take no offense, this is in no way intended as personal.

IMNSHO aquaponics is, as a means of efficiently raising fish, a waste of time, energy, and resources. It is at best a compromise between the ideal environment for the fish and that of the plants in the system, but more typically a simplistic way of trying to keep fish alive while the plants under-perform. Beginning with issues such as differing optimum pH levels, the two can survive while sharing resources, but in general neither thrives, and certainly not to their fullest potential, and that is where the waste of resources comes into play. You can make anything work if you have a big enough hammer, and waste enough energy and water in the process, but if sustainability and conservation of resources is any part of the equation you're better off raising true aeroponic or hydroponic plants and keeping the fish in a hyper filtered recirculating system all unto themselves. There may be some opportunities for fish/plant synergies in terms of de-nitrification or oxygenation and feed production, but as a means of raising food crops for people, there are much better ways. Aquaponics is simply the beneficiary of a lot of interest from a lot of earnest and fairly newly interested back to the land types who are being fleeced by the schmucks selling systems, books and seminars. Murray and Judith are making a great living off of it, but as a model for food production it pretty much sucks.

There are of course plenty of permie applications where water storage ponds and impoundments are doing double duty as very low intensity fish farms, but the general lack of sanitation is ultimately going to doom the ponds to fail in almost every case. As the fish grow they will of course eat more and of course produce more waste. The effect is that as the fish grow their environment continues to degrade, until it reaches a point where illness and disease sets in, and then people get real stupid and start all sorts of inappropriate treatments to try and save the day. The result of course is that the fish usually die and/or they end up with chemically contaminated water and fish. Attended a Sea Grant funded seminar a year or so back that was supposedly going to feature a bunch of PhD types with loads of experience in the field. Ended up being just another circle jerk of academic grant fraud, where they all acknowledged (eventually) that they had no experience at all, and even less empirical proof of anything that they had plagiarized in their presentations. I know and have worked with people who have been involved in this since the early 70's, and to a person everyone of them abandoned aquaponics decades ago, but they'll still happily take your money if you insist (as many do) on trying it.

Okay, my anti-aquaponics diatribe aside, raising fish in a closed system depends upon a lot of parameters being rather precisely maintained, but none so important as water quality, and this is where most systems fail. Each time that the water completes a circulation cycle it needs to be made 100% clean and pure or trouble will ensue. The best analogy would be that of a snowball rolling down a hill. If you filter 99% of the organics for example in just one pass, what happens to the remaining 1%? It becomes like radioactive half-life in reverse. The problem with that is that as it accumulates it begins to decompose at a geometrically progressive rate, which in turn creates an ever increasing ammonia cycle load where the necessary aerobic bacteria are constantly losing the race to catch up. This in turn begins to create a pH shift, problems for the fishes ability to perform osmosis, more stress, then physiological responses in the fish and before ya know it they're barely alive or floating. An over simplification of a much more complex process of synergies, but that's the gist of it.

If you want to see how to grow really spectacular hydro plants, look at the weed growers, and if you wanna see how to keep water in a closed system super duper clean, look to the intensive aquaculture and high end koi folks. Anybody can raise tainted, nutrient deficient tilapia and lettuce in toilet water, but that doesn't mean that ya should.

These hyper efficient closed systems may run contrary to much permaculture doctrine and dogma, but that's the problem with doctrine and dogma, and it does conserve resources better than the alternatives if dialed back from the bleeding edge and manged at lower stocking density levels. Philosophically I would consider a better long term solution to be one that is the most sustainable, and that comes with improved fish health, taste, and nutrient profiles. Raising fish in a closed system where the fish are provided with the highest purity water, that converts solar energy into fish while also providing for the production of their food on site seems the pinnacle of that ethic. I don't see much good in growing fish using pelleted commercial feed that gets trucked and hauled half way round the world, like most of the industrial people food. So whatever your concept goals, if efficient, quality food production in a sustainable way is a part of that, I would drop the focus on trying to reinvent the Roman aquaducts and concentrate more on how to make it all keep working without having to source inputs from off site. Not only will it provide a better quality food fish, but a more rare niche foodstuff that should sell at a considerable premium if you're so inclined.

Just my 2 or 3 cents, and I wouldn't blame ya in the least if you just ignore it, but sometimes I just can't help myself. 

 
Jay Smithy
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CAVEAT/DISCLAIMER ( lol )
All due respect to all contributors, I had this already half-figured out, and was looking for any possible extra alternatives. I was really hoping to see just that, and thus far, I have seen what I would categorize as 'negatives', as in people pointing out problems, limitations,etc.
I do not take these personally at all, and do respect opinions of others with experience, as no matter how much experience I may have or someone else may have, more than one set of eyes or brains usually adds perspectives and diversity.
That revers disclainer being said...
First, I doo respect and appreciate what William Pilgrim had to say, I do not doubt your experience and knowledge, but I have personally seen, engineered, and produced very good results from various forms of Aquaponics.
I do see your point(s) in that it could be argued that good conditions with good soil, compost, and good watering in a good environment can grow really nice plants, no doubt. but, I must say that I have in my own practices and experience seen at least equal quality in plants, but growing much faster through Aquaponics.
I do not, and have never believed in Hydroponics, or Aquaponics with no organic matter in the growing media, simply because if something goes wrong, especially with the pump/watering system, plants can literally die overnight, or in the space of a day, or at least be seriously harmed. I have seen this over and over again, even in my own first systems, which is why I adopted a no-compromise, no-exception rule of having SOME kind of organic matter in the growing media, even if its only peat moss, as it holds enough moisture that if someting happens with the watering system, the plants can manage for a day or two before serious suffering in some way. Back the otther way, to William Pilgrim's POV, That of course is not nearly as much of a concern with plants growing in some form of soil.
William Pilgrim is also right about the neeeds, priorities and compromises regarding the fish. I can say for my own credibility ion an odd way that I do nto eat fish or sea food at all, don;t like it at all, and can barely stand even tuna. The main reason for my interest regarding fish in the system is for the plants and thier benefit. Indirectly to things William Pilgrim stated, I see the see-saw of priority of benefit between plants and fish. One example of this is Aquaponics ystems that use what I would call a 'Serial' (versus 'Parallel') system of watering, where the fish water, etc. is introduced all/only at one end of a system, as especially in a large or long system, the plants nearest the source get all the best, while plants far from the source get a lesser benefit, and plants do not grow equally. My way is what I call 'Parallel', which means that in whatever grow bed, tube, etc., if the priority is growing plants, then the system should be set up where there are several feeds/tubes/etc. spaced among the plants so that they all get equal benefit.  That being a run-away misguided way of saying that either one can set things up so that the priority is on the best water for the fish, through the setup of the plants, growing m,edia, etc, in which a 'Serial' system is better for the water quality and fish, versus what I just explained, which tends to be a compromise to give the fish what they need, with the priority on the plants.

I am also a big proponent on using a system also for water treatment, thus, my thing about "Omni-Ponics", in which human waste itself, along with just about everything else, is put into the system at one end, in a very careful, responsible, thorough desing and practice, as this means having and using that much mpre resource, and being true to the Big Picture concept of true recycling, bio-diversity, etc. My direction and purpose thus naturally being somehwat involved and potentially complicated in the interest of doing things as best and right as possible.

BACK TO THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF THE POST
My ideas regarding the use of machinations and clever tricks is for three reasons:
#1: In the end, having a system that I can leave for a couple days at least, if not a week, and be thoroughly confident that when I come back, I will nto find a mess, lots of missing water, and dead fish or plants.
#2: I will be doing this in a remote location, in the middle of a desert to whatever extent, where water is not available at the location at least at first, and for up to a year until  I get a well dug or whatever, and will have water delivered and brought in myself, thus, conservation becomes a big deal.
#3: To have a system that of course will have to whatever extent, more or less normal means of running, but that has contingencies, back-ups, and redundancies so that something can go wrong, and the system will continue flowing and growing, even if to a lesser than normal extent, and in some ways maybe even running in an efficient way, evet if by odd means, evenb though I am really not too concerned about "Efficiency", and think that people put too much priority on this. If efficiency becomes a priority, it says to me that things are being stretched out too thin or scant, requiring efficiency to ensure that it even works. I am more a believer in having something that works liberally, with enough overflow, slop, excess, etc. that little problems do not necessarily become big problems

ATTEMPT #2 TO GET BACK TO THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF THE POST ( lol )
Example: Using solar water heating in more than one form, I can essentially duplicate the process used in the average electric coffee maker, using what I personally would call a "Hot Bubble Pump".
This absolutely solves much of the challenge/purpose, with the caveat that it results in very hot/boiling/steaming water that as such cannot be used for either plants or fish.
However, what has given me one answer/solution after another in my life with Aquaponis and pseudo Bio-Spheres is in fact "Taking lemons and making lemonade" Which I am an AVID fan of, I LOVE being able to do so, and Aquaponics is about the most forgiving and flexible phenomena to do so.
How I have this half figured out, is that if I have a large anout of water in a semi-enclosed system, that very hot water can be put to very practical uses.
The system I am figuring out is essentially two suystems in one. In the first, water is put through this process of becoming very hot both for the purpose of moving the water, truly without any power, that after maybe three components or individual processes, ends up as essentially very warm water in some large container, indirectly connected to the second system, and to one extent or another simpy waits, and cools overnight.
The second system, with a equal or near equal amount of water in it uses that water from the previous day, which has cooled overnight to safe to ideal temperatures for use during the day or next day.
In addition to this, it allows the option that if the system or water, etc. faces temperatures overnight that are too cold, or if the fish need warmer water for the night, warm water can be sooner introduced from that first hot water system, thus, if I can figure out a simple, natural regulating contrivance, can essentially act as a lorified thermistat.
To clarify or review, two systems, one is at one enmd hot now, the other system of water has been cooled overnight and by other means.

The critiscisms(s) That the psudo-perpetual gadgetry is not efficient are absolutely correct. The caveat is that they do not have to be near-perpetual or even efficient. The water wheel naturally increases how much water can be circulated in the system, even if it is naturally going to involve diminishing return.
With the use of such a water wheel, a given 240/250 gallon IBC container can actually put out MORE than 240/250 gallons, which naturally and obviously is more and better, which translates to actual efficiency, despite the apparent fine inefficiancy.
Nature is in fact the only true, working perpetual motion device. It has not stopped raining now and then and flowing for the life of the planet as thus far as we have seen.

There are two things I have not figured into the rough and figurative mental draft of this system.
#1: Adequate aeration of the water for the fish, which is only a matter of effort, and priority of time spent, as in this system I know it will likely be easy to figure in.
#2: Final details, as the devil is in the details.
The fish must get the best water possible. However, if the water has previously gone through a process where it has essentially been boiled or even distilled, you cannot ask for better than that, assuming that aeration has been adequately introduced.
This water must, of course, be given first to the fish.  The fish water must of course be put through the grow beds/tubes/whatever, and filtered as well as possible before it goes through the hot water process to avoid deposits, accumulated whatever.
But, again, one of my own odd belifs is that almolst equally, the plants AND growing media are the primary water filter, which at first seems DUH, obvious, but I take that a step further than most.
Lets say you set up the grow beds AS A WATER FILTER, specifically. When I have done this, I used sand, with, among whatever else, "activated carbon" - natural charcoal, carbon, whatever you want to call it. One reason I have done this is because it is good for the plants in various ways>
When I have done this, I have seen that roots vigorously seek out the bits or chunks of cabon/coal, and enthusiastically burrow into it. That means they like it for whatever reasons. Because it absorbs things, it also absorbs, holds, and very slowly releases nutrients.
It also is known for purifying things, removing unwanted toxins, etc, which indirectly is also good for plants, though of course, not that big a deal, but good is good, and if plants like it, then I like giving it to them. Carbon/coal is better than most (psudo) 'organic' matter in some ways, as it contributes without necessarily breaking down (rotting). It of course is also especilly good for the water quality for the fish, which of course is also a priority in Aquaponics.
At the end of the grow bed, there will be an additional filtering mechanism of some sort to finalhy remove as much of anything left as possible, again to either eliminate or seriously reduce any possible accumulations or deposits in the sytem beyond.
Filtered, boiled, possible distilled, and then aerated water is about the best you can possibly do for the fish, with the exception of my belief of having some interim component/small container/etc. where I could choose to add something to the water just before it goes to either aeration stage or the fish, either for general benefit of some sort, or for medicinal purposes.

I estimate this system may require approximately 1,000 gallons X the two  (Hot and cool) systems, for a total of 2,000 gallons total, or more, as more, if practical would always be better.
If I were to figure/divide this into the typical 240/250 Gallon IBC containers, that would mean a total of 8 of them, 4 for each system. I could, of course, just spend the mony on larger tanks of some sort, as inthe area I plan on doing this, they seem to not be plentiful, as I see people regularly inquiring about where to get them, and not getting too many source suggestions.

Sorry for writing a novel, lol, but what I am working on is not the usual, does at first look seem somewhat complicated, etc. thus, requiring the best ecxplanation I can make to avoid as much misunderstanding as possible.

I am still open to any ideas beyond the norm as to moving water by other than normal means.
Due to the exhastive length of this, I am not going to bother Previewing/correcting my inevitable mispellings, so please forgive me, lol.

Thank you.









 
Jay Smithy
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- Just to be absolutely, utterly clear on this, my system WILL have solar panels, and either 1/2 water pumps and aerators, or serious aerators that also provide the air for bubble pumps.
My purpose is to have a system, that just as it has been set up, without any power or outside affect will flow to some limited extent. After that, adding the pump(s) will increase overall flow and be liberal in its quality.
I never underestimate Murphy's law, and am a defeater of Murphy's law.
- But I also love to set things up so they just plain work on thier own due to inherent design.
- and I also love cool, clever, not-commonly known or used techniques, lol.


 
Gordon Haverland
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While some could argue it is technically wind power, I could imagine a solar chimney providing some assist.  It will draw air, and you may be able to force evaporation using it.
 
Jay Smithy
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- Gordon Haverland - Good call. I have not considered the technicality of whether a solar air heater or whatever (forgot the term you used already, lol) is or is not wind power. I would say it is not, being that in almost any example I can think of, "Wind Power" is either directly mechanical, or directly electrical in how it operates or what it provides. I am already planning on using such a convention for ventilation to possibly eliminate or at least reduce the use or need of fans and electricity. I am not sure yet if or how such a thing might be practically used where this thread is concerned. It would 'draw' air, could possibly create a slight vacuum, and thereby possibly be used to help the flow in some way. I am entirely uncertain about it, still wondering.  Also, if a system were totally enclosed, p;ossibly air-tight, such a thing could indirectly be used to draw cooler air in, and possiblt be uised  in that respect for aeration. Any experience or info you have would be more than welcome. Thanks.

 
Jay Smithy
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THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION
If I use what I am calling the 'Coffee brewer hot bubble pump' for lack of a better term, the question is ow high can such a thing lift water
I would like to assume that I could use a tube of at least slightly larger diameter than what is used in a modern electric coffee pot, but that would likely involve things like the surface tension of water, also affected by the fact that it is above boiling temperature, and even possibly principles of capillary action.
Even if the diameter of tubing could not be larger, it would still be worth doing, if nothing else, with multiple such tubes working more or less together.
In any case, the question remains, how high can such a contrivance pump/lifet water
Has anyone does this kind of thing? Who wpould I even ask about it?
I do want to have some basis of practicality in knowing, as I generally don't experiemtn with the construction of such a thing unless I know it will have practical value.

Anybody know anyone with any practical knowledge or experience in  doing such a thing?
 
Kristal Cravener
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geoff lawton's has a solar (and battery) powered little pond pump system. It draws water from the deepest point in the pond, through the pump and directs it to a 40-50 gallon drum filled with gravel. The water trickles through and becomes aerated.


Is a YouTube video to make a pvc pump. If you were going to be away for days this might not be a good idea, lol. Anyway if you had a holding tank you could use the pvc pump to fill it then direct the water through a gravel filled drum/s as well. Depending on how long you plan to be away and how big the system is and how much water the fish pond portion could handle (if you end up draining the entire holding tank... depending on size, that could be a lot of water). You would probably need a neighbor to come by and check on it....

That's what I came up with. Hope it was helpful,
Kristal
 
Jay Smithy
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I am happy to say I have begun a crude first assembly of a model of a Hot Air Water System in Virtual Reality, and have a few pics.
Caveat: This is mostly symbolic, not totally assembled. This takes some time and will be built on and refined, so please don't be concerned about the lack of plumbing details, etc, lol.
(Hope the attachment process worked, lol)
- Ok, worked.

This model/these pictures are not nearly complete at all. For instance, I am sure you notice that the corrugated sheet metal hot air thing should also have water tubes on it, which I plan and which it will. The water will go through that/those first, and once already plenty hot, will then go through that main pipe over the reflector, which will give it a baking boost to probably, hopefullt well over boiling temperature.
The water would then go into the steeel 55 Gallon drum(s) which will also be baking in the sun, and will be the first part of the Passive heat bank.
The 55 Gallon drums will, of course get rusty inside over time, and if neglected, would also add rustyness to the water. Such drums are fairly cheap and would be replaced as needed.
I guess I could coat the inside with something that might resist the baking temperatures, but means more time, more expense, and would only be experimental, and possibly temporary, as between the high temperatures and the inevitable thermal expansion/contraction during day/night cycles, most coatings would likely not last too long before separating, and quality coatings that might last over time would probably be too expensive to be cost effective. I wonder if I could add some filter, or if magnets could attract rust in the rusty water?
The Corrugated sheet metal hot air thingy would vent up under the drums, again giving them more heat, but it may be better to use that hot air/flow for something else possibly.

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Jay Smithy
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Another video showing possibilities.
This video has one technical error - I would not call a wood-burning device "Endless". However, otherwise the device clearly works. If one successfully uses solar heat for heating the water, it also shows that without any electricity, pump, mechanical means or moving parts, water can be lifted at least 3-4 feet up and automatically circulated with only a check valve to make it function.  (Some might try to classify a check valve as a moving part, lol)
Personally, I would add that this gentleman could improve his device by adding a coil around the outside of the chimney as a pre-heater before going into the inside directly heated coil.

The technical question remains how high can water be lifted through this general method, which might be quite high, or at least as high as needed to make the system work practically or better.

The challenge is then how best to cool the water to a temperature favorable to the fish.


 
Jay Smithy
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Nest up: Aeration.

Suprized I forgot about this technique, shame on me. Pics and maybe video to explain.
In my particular case/use, I would liely be using a "Passive Return" or drop of water into a reverse venturi, but more likely some combination of two methods.
The question I am seeking answer to is how much air can be introduced into a given minumum flow of water for aeration...
There is also what is called a "Trompe".

Video:


Last pic is similar to what I will likely be using; basically a passive return drop line, probably in combination with other means as well.



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F. Anton
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Jay Smithy wrote:Another video showing possibilities.
This video has one technical error - I would not call a wood-burning device "Endless". However, otherwise the device clearly works. If one successfully uses solar heat for heating the water, it also shows that without any electricity, pump, mechanical means or moving parts, water can be lifted at least 3-4 feet up and automatically circulated with only a check valve to make it function.  (Some might try to classify a check valve as a moving part, lol)
Personally, I would add that this gentleman could improve his device by adding a coil around the outside of the chimney as a pre-heater before going into the inside directly heated coil.

The technical question remains how high can water be lifted through this general method, which might be quite high, or at least as high as needed to make the system work practically or better.

The challenge is then how best to cool the water to a temperature favorable to the fish.



a simple ram pump would work in your project, a friend have one working years without stop! maintenance only when something get stuck and/or block the filter mesh.
 
Jay Smithy
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Unfortunately, a ram pump is where you have a supply/flow of water going somewhere else or doing something else, and you are using some of its force to drive a smaller flow of water somewhere, usually upwards.
That is unfortunately not the case here.
I have now found the way to move the water that will work very well, as illustrated above, and now the challenge is cooling the water to where it is good for the fish again.
Unless something else comes up, I will likely be using some combination of cooling coils or radiator and underground geothermal cooling.
Thank you for your suggestion though.
 
Jeremy Franklin
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I think a change in thinking might serve best here.  What you're mostly talking about is physics.  To have a circulatory system - just due to the inefficiencies inherent - means you're going to have to have an energy input.  You need to move a certain amount of water per day, and it's going to take a certain amount of energy to  do that.  Those numbers dont change, no matter how you acquire the energy.  You can't get work for free, so something has to generate the energy necessary to push water through your system in one way or another.  Your current design is using solar energy to heat water, and then using the heat energy as a means of mechanically moving the same water.  How much water can that system move on your best solar day?  And how long will it take to cool that same amount of water? How about on your worst solar day?  Think about how many water cycles you need to keep your fish and plants healthy, and how big your solar water heater setup would need to be, and how much you'd spend on supplies and effort.  Now compare that to the expense and effort of solar panels and an electrical pump to move the same amount of water.  Is your system actually better?  More than likely, investing the same amount of money and time into a PV array and electric pump would give you a system that would glean far more total energy out of the same available sun than the solar hot water heater.  When you say, "I want x, but I don't want to use the first, second, or even the top 5 solutions that other people have used to solve this same problem," you're almost guaranteeing that your system will not be very good. 

I know sometimes I get caught up in the cool factor of a design before I really do some math and figure out whether it would actually work better than the simpler design.  Your current plan relies on solar power, and thus has all the same vulnerabilities that a PV setup would have, while not really offering any advantages that I can see, and adds the extra problem of having to cool the water back down, thus wasting a lot of the energy harvested in the first place.

I think, even though it might not be as cool, the overall efficiency of your system would benefit from not eliminating any possible solutions from the get go, and considering all possibilities and which one would work best.
 
Nick Raaum
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I've thought  int the past alot along these lines, though ultimately I was led to conclude that a high volume low speed stirling or brayton style mechanical cycle was the most effective ways to accomplish this.  This example engine though illustrates the design in action http://www.solarheatengines.com/2012/01/10/tamera-video-of-sunvention-sunpulse-engine/  ;

That answer was more complicated than I desired though and I never pursued it.  What you are talking about is basically an evaporative engine.  The physics are actually a bit complicated.   You want to evaporate water with the lowest amount of energy and capture back a bit of that energy in gravitational potential energy.  To increase power output  for a given solar input you have two variables, one is the hight at which you are capturing condensate and the other is the amount of heat you put into the water to evaporate.   It is the second variable that makes things complicated, at high humidity or higher power inputs the latent heat needed to evaporate will begin to approach heat of vaporization or ~900 BTU/lbm if memory serves me.   In other words atmospheric changes will affect power output so significantly that one day your system may work well the next day humidity rises and the fish die, unless your system is ridicously oversized to account for it.

I think a good place to start would be to try to determine the minimum hydrostatic power needed to aerate the system and then work backwards to ensure the system can always meet that demand.  This will need to be based on local weather patterns and will necessarily entail developing enough thermal energy storage to keep system lifting water through longest and most humid periods of weather.

I think crunching some numbers on higher humidity levels out to make it apparent what the downsides of the low temperature evaporative cycle are.  I suspect you will need to design the system so that in worse case scenario you basically have enough energy stored up to be able to boil the minimum amount of aeratiuon water needed for days on end.  Say this is i don't know 1 gpm, that is at 70 deg  around 9,213 BTU/min energy input needed at a temp of up to 210 deg F (again this is for nearly saturated air) or 552,780BTU/hr.  roughly 377BTU/hr/ft^2 fall when sunny of which you might be able to capture 50% in well designed system leaving you with 2,909 ft^2 of energy capture needed to maintain flow through worse case conditions.  Wow that seems even worse than I thought perhaps I miscalculated...as its a square space roughly 54'x54' needed to be devoted to just solar collectors.

It could be that if your aquaponic system takes up a greenhouse space that big and you want the thing shaded that it might work out, but those collectors still cost a fair amount.  The inefficiencies  inherent in the cycle, even though a minimal amount of work output is needed still bite pretty hard at least when it gets very humid...if there was a way to avoid humidity and always have evaporative work be done without vaporizing then things would be very different, not sure how to do that though, other than to operate in a closed cycle.  In which case the optimal form of this engine would look like a super tall insulated loop.  Water would be heated to boiling point and then rise in the column to the point where ideally it condenses due to atmospheric temperature drop (thousands of feet) then falls back down through turbine to capture the energy.  At which point rather than expanding the steam against a gravitational field to do work it looks much more attractive and economical to expand through a piston against a load to gain the same efficiencies with a fraction of the material. 
 
john mcginnis
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Jay Smithy wrote:
<<snip>>
Anyone want to take the challenge to figure out other viable alternatives


Based on the requirements you posted subsequent to your original post aquaponics  is disqualified. Based on your further desires the best recommendations are one of either --

a) Wicking Bed. Or,
b) Rain Gutter Grow system.

Selection may very well depend on how large a system you wish. Both can be set up to be powered by gravity in a sense. Perpetually if you have a water source higher than the tank, or intermittently by having to refill the tank. Both methods are also low tech compared to aquaponics. If one lives in the deep south in sandy soil conditions wicking bed is the better option. Easy to trench the bed, line with plastic and eliminates mozzies right off the bat. RGGS advantages are quick to set up, modular, can function anywhere, even roofs.

I have used both of the above systems. They work.

By the way, I am somewhat leery of soil media in a aquaponic based system. One of the inadvertent outcomes of aquaponics is a reduction in soil borne problems by eliminating soil. That is borne out by how the major advocates use soil in aquaponics. (Hallam, et. al) If you look closely they are essentially co-locating a wicking bed soil system as part of the aquaponics infrastructure. The scheduled water exchange in the aqua system is fed to the wicking bed for that last drop of use of the water in the whole system.  But there is no water return back to the aquaponics side.

Hope this is useful.
 
Joseph Bataille
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I have a friend in Haiti who has been working toward this same goal for a few years now, so I've also given it some thought. I think that the best bet for a constant flow of water, using only mechanical, non-human energy would be a hydraulic ram pump. I built this model designed by Clemson University awhile back, but I have yet to test it. It cost me about $350 with parts procured in Haiti.

There would be at least two problems with using a hydraulic ram, however. First, you can only use it near a flowing stream. That is an extremely limiting factor. Second, it would circulate FRESH water, not fishy, nutrient dense water. For that reason, you would have to use the water from the hydraulic ram to run the mechanics of a bell syphon without feeding into the actual fish tank. The best that I could come up with is a parallel bell syphon system where one tank fills with fish water, the other with fresh water, but the syphon for both is simultaneously triggered by the fresh water tank. However, there still remains the problem of actually pumping the fish water. Surely there could be a way to build pressure or to use the freshwater tank to create some sort of counterweight... but I haven't thought that far yet.
 
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