↑ Return to Archimedes Screw

Archimedes Screw Perpetual Motion Machines

 Archimedes Screw Perpetual Motion Machines

Many perpetual motion machines sprung up throughout the ages in relation to Archimedes Screw. This is particularly true in the years and centuries following its invention. The reason for this is that it was basically the first water pump in history and many people were fascinated by it and did not really understand how it worked.

Many scholars, inventors and engineers thought that they could harness the energy of the water that had been lifted by the screw and in turn make it power the screw itself, an added bonus being that the screw had a simple rotary motion, the simplest kind of motion to incorporate into any mechanism. A lot of water pumps nowadays are reciprocating, meaning they go back and forth. Reciprocating pumps can achieve higher pressure of the water that is ejected, a typical example would be a fireman’s hose.

Below i have compiled a series of images from various times throughout history of perpetual motion machines and other machines that incorporate Archimedes Screw.

This is a drawing created (approx 1511) by Vitruvius , a Roman Architect, Writer and Engineer. Although not strictly a design for perpetual motion.  Vitruvius has the passing river rotating the screw by means of a paddle wheel, the paddle wheel can be raised or lowered into the river, depending on if you wanted water or not this would be best described as a constantly powered pump.

Here is an old drawing of unknown origin reprinted in the book  “The perpetual search for perpetual motion”by Doug Stewart. The drawing shows the Archimedes screw being powered by a large paddle wheel, which itself is powered by ball bearings shifting its centre of gravity and making it turn. The ball bearings have been transported to the top of the paddle wheel by the Archimedes screw, so this is definitely an attempt at perpetual motion. The paddle wheel powers the screw by means of a set of old style gears located at the midpoint of the screw.


Here is a drawing from 1580. This mechanism does not look like it would even pump water if it had a power source like an electric motor as the incline of the Archimedes screw is too steep. The water would simply fall back down the screw. Again this is an attempt at perpetual motion similar to previous attempts up above – the screw raises water, which then turns a paddle wheel, which then turns the screw.


Below is a drawing of unknown origin. I like this concept above the previous ones as it does not have a paddle wheel and simply uses the potential energy of the water to rotate the screw. Unfortunately for the artist/inventor he/she has the screw rotating in the wrong direction. I think this would make a nice water feature if it was powered by a hidden electric motor

I liked this concept ^^^,its a pretty cool, albeit flawed machine so i decided to animate it :).



If you liked this page you may also like Leonardo da Vincis attempt at perpetual motion, learn more here –  Leonardo da Vinci Inventions

Further Reading –

How Stuff Works, Physics Hacks, My CNC Machining & Leonardo da Vinci Inventions.