How Scotland’s Falkirk Wheel Lifts 60-Foot, Hundred-Ton Boats on a Regular Basis

By: | October 13th, 2015

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.

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