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Winter 2002


Student creation first of its kind
By Steve Tally

 

Image: Louis Cassens and Michael Thomas
Graduate students Louis Cassens (right) and Michael Thomas put a revolutionary lawn mower through a trial run. The mower uses ordinary water in place of hydraulic fluid. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

A group of Purdue under-graduates have built an industrial riding lawn mower that's a cut above the rest.

The students have created what is thought to be the first vehicle that uses water in all of its hydraulic systems, including power steering, power brakes and transmission.

Recent advances in water hydraulic systems have allowed them to perform as well as petroleum hydraulic systems. Because water offers several environmental and economic advantages over petroleum hydraulic fluid, the students teamed up to demonstrate that such a vehicle is now possible.

Students Jason Brown of Pendleton, Ind.; Dan Sellers of Bourbon, Ind.; Dan Pitstick of Rensselaer, Ind.; and Nathan Schoonover, of Evansville, Ind., completed the mower before graduating last year.

Although the mower was redesigned to prove a point, it does have a practical purpose. Mowers leak some hydraulic fluid, and on golf courses that fluid can kill grass on greens that often cost tens of thousands of dollars to construct and maintain.

Gary Krutz, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and the students' advisor, says water hydraulic systems only would be practical in vehicles that use high-pressure systems, such as heavy equipment used in construction, agriculture, forestry and mining.

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