If you work in manufacturing, you may already have a peristaltic pump. These devices are commonly used for liquids that are dangerous, like very aggressive chemicals that could eat away at the pump, or fluids that have to stay pure because they will be mixed into something else. Peristaltic pumps are great for moving these liquids without any part of the pump touching them except the tube itself.

However, did you know that these pumps are used outside of manufacturing and that the human body itself uses the same mechanism? Peristaltic pumps aren’t just essential to your business or your field. Keep reading to see where else you can find peristaltic pumps like the ones you use.

How Peristaltic Pumps Work

A peristaltic pump is a kind of positive displacement pump, meaning that the pump works by trapping a section of liquid and pushing it forward. Peristaltic pumps run liquid through a flexible tube bent around a corner-the tube’s entrance and exit will be pointing the same way.

The pump will have at least two sets of rollers that push on the tube, though many have more. The rollers push on the tube and roll along it, moving the liquid inside the tube forward. The movement of the liquid is called peristalsis, which is where the pump gets its name. This kind of pump has been around for a long timethe first peristaltic pump was patented in 1881 by Eugene Allen.

Peristaltic Pumps Outside Manufacturing

One of the best things about peristaltic pumps is that the rollers do not actually touch the liquid itself, which means that the liquid has a greater chance of staying sterile. This feature makes peristaltic pumps ideal for the medical field-in particular, for intravenous injections, or IVs.

IVs move saline solution, medications, or even donated human blood into patients. If the liquid inside the IV is contaminated, it will contaminate the bloodstream of the patient. Depending on the substance or germs involved, the consequences could be disastrous.

However, IVs need to be set at a steady rate in order to not deliver too much medication too fast, which means that they often need a pump of some kind. Peristaltic pumps do not touch the liquid, so they can deliver a constant, steady stream of sterile medication or blood to patients.

Another application of this kind of pump is the heart-lung machine, which circulates blood when a patient is undergoing bypass surgery. The pump takes over for the patient’s heart while it’s being operated on.

Peristalsis in the Human Body

Though peristaltic pumps have only been around since 1881, the process that makes them work has been here much longer. Peristalsis, though not the same thing as a peristaltic pump, keeps our bodies functioning.

Gastrointestinal Tract

The most commonly cited example of peristalsis is in the digestive system. Our digestive tract is essentially a long tube, and food must move through it in order to be digested and for waste to be disposed of. Muscles contracting behind the food push it forward through the system.

Peristalsis begins early on: after you swallow, peristalsis forces the food down your esophagus into your stomach. Because the muscles always contract behind the food, the food can only move forward, not backwardit’s basically being squeezed into the next section of the digestive tract. The exception to food moving forwards is vomiting. However, the mechanism to move food back up is very different from peristalsis.

After the stomach, peristalsis continues to move food through the small and large intestines, though the speed and frequency of the pushing contractions varies.

Lymphatic System

The other big example of peristalsis in the body is the lympathic system. Your lymph nodes circulate fluid that brings protein to cells, white blood cells to infections, and bacteria to the lymph nodes for disposal.

However, the lympatic system does not have a central pump, like the heart. Instead, it uses peristalsis throughout the lymph capillaries to move fluid through to where it is needed.

These are not the only instances of peristalsis in nature-many other kinds of animals use this mechanism as well, including other animals with similar digestive and lymphatic systems. For example, earthworms use peristalsis to crawl, and engineers have made robots that move this way based on those worms.

Peristaltic pumps are useful in manufacturing, but they are also essential to the medical field and are modeled after the human body itself. Take a look at your pump next time you work with it on the job-doing so may help you better understand how your body works.

If your pump is not working correctly, contact PFC Equipment, Inc. We can service, repair, or replace your pump with a newer and better model. Since your peristaltic pump is essential to operations, call us as soon as you can.