A flywheel is a mechanical device with a significant moment of inertia used as a storage device for rotational energy. Flywheels resist changes in their rotational speed, which helps steady the rotation of the shaft when a fluctuating torque is exerted on it by its power source such as a piston-based (reciprocating) engine, or when an intermittent load, such as a piston pump, is placed on it.
Flywheels can be used to produce very high power pulses for experiments, where drawing the power from the public network would produce unacceptable spikes. A small motor can accelerate the flywheel between the pulses.
Recently, flywheels have become the subject of extensive research as power storage devices for uses in vehicles and power plants.
The principle of the flywheel is found in the Neolithic spindle and the potter's wheel.
The Andalusian agronomist Ibn Bassal (fl 1038–1075), in his Kitab al-Filaha, describes the flywheel effect employed in a water wheel machine, the saqiya.
The flywheel as a general mechanical device for equalizing the speed of rotation is, according to the American medievalist Lynn White, recorded in the De diversibus artibus (On various arts) of the German artisan Theophilus Presbyter (ca. 1070–1125) who records applying the device in several of his machines.
In the Industrial Revolution, James Watt contributed to the development of the flywheel in the steam engine, and his contemporary James Pickard used a flywheel combined with a crank to transform reciprocating into rotary motion.
A flywheel is a spinning wheel or disc with a fixed axle so that rotation is only about one axis. Energy is stored in the rotor as kinetic energy, or more specifically, rotational energy:
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