Scotland’s Falkirk Wheel is an engineer’s dream, and YouTuber Tom Scott has an awesome video explaining the basic physics behind the rotating boat lift.
The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that regularly lifts entire 60-foot, hundred-ton canal boats, one of which runs 80 feet higher than the other, to enable vessels to travel between two canals.
How the Falkirk Wheel Works:
The wheel uses caissons that counterbalance each other precisely. The two caissons, which are water-filled pods that the boats sit in on either end of an arm, centered around a main wheel, are filled with 500 tons of water each.
As a canal boat enters the Falkirk Wheel, it displaces the same amount of water as it weighs, always ensuring both arms are perfectly balanced.
As a result, the amount of energy it takes to lift a boat is minimized as much as possible.