Properly applying pumps can be a complex business. In this section you'll find information that can help in understanding pump basics, fluid dynamics, and other relevant information that can help in the process.
Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) and Cavitation
The Hydraulic Institute defines NPSH as the total suction head in feet absolute, determined at the suction nozzle and corrected to datum, less the vapor pressure of the liquid in feet absolute. Simply stated, it is an analysis of energy conditions on the suction side of a pump to determine if the liquid will vaporize at the lowest pressure point in the pump.
The pressure which a liquid exerts on its surroundings is dependent upon its temperature. This pressure, called vapor pressure, is a unique characteristic of every fluid and increased with increasing temperature. When the vapor pressure within the fluid reaches the pressure of the surrounding medium, the fluid begins to vaporize or boil. The temperature at which this vaporization occurs will decrease as the pressure of the surrounding medium decreases.
A liquid increases greatly in volume when it vaporizes. One cubic foot of water at room temperature becomes 1700 cu. ft. of vapor at the same temperature.
It is obvious from the above that if we are to pump a fluid effectively, we must keep it in liquid form. NPSH is simply a measure of the amount of suction head present to prevent this vaporization at the lowest pressure point in the pump.
NPSH Required is a function of the pump design. As the liquid passes from the pump suction to the eye of the impeller, the velocity increases and the pressure decreases. There are also pressure losses due to shock and turbulence as the liquid strikes the impeller. The centrifugal force of the impeller vanes further increases the velocity and decreases the pressure of the liquid. The NPSH Required is the positive head in feet absolute required at the pump suction to overcome these pressure drops in the pump and maintain the majority of the liquid above its vapor pressure. The NPSH Required varies with speed and capacity within any particular pump. Pump manufacturer's curves normally provide this information.
Content provided by Goulds Pumps Inc.