The Origins of Vortex Separation

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The Origins of Vortex Separation

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Hydro International’s products have evolved over the last 50 years from simple vortex overflows to the advanced hydrodynamic vortex separators of today. 

Hydro’s founding father, Bernard Smisson, designed the very first vortex overflow in England in the 1960s. Faced with space constraints while constructing a conventional side weir overflow, he developed a circular weir overflow configuration based on a vortex flow regime. As a result, hydrodynamic vortex separation technology was born.

In the early 1970s, Smisson was invited to America to advise the American Public Works Association and the Environmental Protection Agency, which resulted in a series of projects culminating in the development of the swirl and helical-bend flow regulators/settleable-solids concentrators and the swirl degritter. He later returned to England to continue his pioneering research on vortex technology where he addressed the issues of high headloss and solids deposition and refined the design to further improve performance.

A pioneering design

The significance and simplicity of the swirl degritter — which harnessed the energy in a flow stream to separate solids in an all-hydraulic separator with no moving parts — was not lost on a young doctorate student-researcher in America. In the early 1970s, Dr. George Wilson, founder of Eutek Systems, now a part of Hydro International, was hired by the National Canners Association to develop a product to remove silt from vegetable process water to keep sediment out of the collection system. By literally turning the swirl concentrator upside down and accelerating the velocity, the TeaCup classifier — a high-energy rotary flow separator device with very high removal efficiencies for fine sand particles — was created.

Technological developments

Through continuous research and development, Hydro International’s products have evolved from direct descendants of those first-generation efforts into the state-of-the-art water management technology solutions of today. You could say vortex technology is in the Hydro DNA.

Today, the company continues to study, test, model, optimize and innovate the application of vortex flow regimes. It conducts detailed investigations of low-, medium- and high-energy rotary flow regimes, optimal volute configurations and arrangements for flow modifying static internal components. Drawing on its deep understanding of the fundamentals of vortex motion has resulted in numerous technologies that address immediate and long-term needs in the water sector.

Hydro’s two hydraulic test facilities enable the company to experiment with full-scale prototypes for its entire product portfolio to continuously improve performance. Its firsthand knowledge and expertise in test protocols and methods have been utilized by regulatory agencies around the world to aid development of performance standards for stormwater and wastewater solid-liquid separation processes and vortex flow controls.

As one of the earliest adopters of computational fluid dynamics to model liquid/solids separation in the water industry, Hydro’s CFD expertise allows it to assess flow patterns and velocities within systems and treatment processes. Its CFD analyses are verified through lab testing and used to gain insights into complex fluid processes and assist in developing design equations for our products. 

Hydro International collaborates with universities around the world on initiatives that include verification work and further its understanding of the science behind its technology platforms.

The proof, however, comes in real-world results. The performance of its technologies have been field verified by Hydro as well as independent agencies allowing the company to clearly state expected removal efficiencies. Its customers benefit from low maintenance technologies that require little power and, most important, achieve the promised results.

For more information on Hydro's technologies, call 866-615-8130, or email

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