Introduction: DIY Air-Lift Pump (Version1) Experiment

Experimenting a DIY Air-Lift Pump (Version 1)

A pump is a device drawing energy (electricity) to transport liquid where as compressor is to transport air, converting energy to fluid as pressure so that they could move or flow within a confine or limited space.

Here, as the name 'airlift' + ' pump' indicate the utilization of air to lift water as a pump using the principle of density differences of matters.

Air-lift system has low suction pressure (inlet) with moderate amount of liquid to be transported. This so call 'pump' is now generally use as it is transporting liquid. The system injects compressed air (using those usual aquarium air-compressor or air-pump!) near the bottom of a pipe/tube that is immersed in the liquid. The compressed air will then mixes with the liquid to form air-water bubbles. These water mixture has lesser density relative to the rest of the liquid around it and hence displace upwards through the discharge tube/pipe. Sometimes, small size dirt or particles (solid) are allow to be entrained along in the flow of air-water mixture within the tube/piipe. The transportation of the mixture (solid + liquid + air) will then be 'lifted' and discharged at an elevated height above the water surface.

The main advantage of using the air-lift pump over a water pump is it energy, which can be comparable to 10 or even more folds of electricity consumption. However, it is usually for low-pressure-low-flow application amongst other attributes.

So, in this version 1 of my DIY Air-Lift Pumping System, the following were used:

- An electrical operated aquarium air-compressor or air-pump (2.5W);

- Rubber & plastic tubing or hose (4mm internal diameter);

- 2 soda bottles as reservoir (one at elevated level);

- Air-inflation needle (those usual needle used for inflating balls);

- Scissors, wiring, water & electrical power supply.


1) Install 2 soda bottles or any 2 reservoirs at different height, with the lower fill with water (half bottle filled);

2) Cut an angle (45 degree angle) at one end of the rubber tube;

3) Insert fully the inflation needle, 5cm away from the angle-cut-end of the tube, with its inflation-tip to be pointed to the other end of the hose;

4) Connect a rubber tubing to the inflation needle inlet (the bigger opening of the inflation needle) and to the aquarium air-pump;

5) Use some wire or tape to secure the inflation needle & the rubber hose preventing them falling apart, to be insert into the lower reservoir;

6) Insert the hose between the 2 bottles, with the inflation needle end into the base of the lower bottle;

7) Plug & switch the power-on for the aquarium air-pump;

8) Adjust the air flow into the air-pump or simply lift up the inflation needle end and slowly put it back into the water-filled reservoir for the air-water mixture to be lifted upward.

Below the video of the Version 1 Air-Lift Pump Experiment for your reference;



sebastian.frai made it!(author)2016-01-03

maybe with peristaltic pump your project work better

Lim+San made it!(author)2016-01-03

Thanks for suggestion. Just that peristaltic pump may only be suitable to displace or lift liquid without foreign matter in it. It cannot be used in some application with foreign material like Aquaponic system.

I will definitely consider building one if I have a chance. Cheers!

bubbathegump made it!(author)2016-01-17

Have to disagree with you on that one: Peristaltic pumps are used in many applications, including liquids with foreign matter in them: dialysis machines, etc. They are regularly used in dosing setups for hydroponics, aquaponics, aquarium setups, etc. They don't really have a lot of power to them, so would not be suitable for pushing any liquid to any great height.

One main benefit I see is that this type of system will "pump" or lift your liquid higher with less energy, as the air is constantly trying to rise in the tube it forces the liquid up the tube ahead of it. any other type of pump has to overcome head pressure, the downward force of gravity on the liquid itself inside the tube, with mechanical force.

Lim+San made it!(author)2016-01-18

Hmm.. a little skeptical that peristaltic pump can accommodate foreign matter in the liquid it transport.. won't the foreign particles stuck, press and/or rub on the internal surface of the rubber tubing when the roller compress the rubber tubing that create the positive pressure for flow??

My take would be, if the tube is small, like the one I've used, the little amount of liquid (hence its minute mass) moving up within the small tube is not due to the density difference to cause the air constantly rise up. Rather, it is more from the pushing force from the air-pump, to overcome the water surface tension as well as the internal wall surface resistance, not so much react on the mass/gravity like water pump do. Say if I stop the air pump, the liquid bubble that rise half way will stay half-way in the tube where it stop without further rising or 'floating upward" due to its density differences, not until the air-pump is switch-on again. But, if the tube size is large, where the quantity of water mass flow is large, then I would agree that under this circumstances much more pressure head (hence more energy as used in water pump) would be needed to lift the large amount of water mass flow.

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