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A Sump is a low space or container that collects liquids (and any suspended solids that settle out).

The commonest example is the sump (oil pan in US terminology) of an engine. The oil is used to lubricate the engine's moving parts and it pools in a reservoir, known as a sump, at the bottom of the engine. Use of a sump requires the engine to be mounted slightly higher to make space for it. Often though, oil in the sump can surge during hard cornering starving the oil pump. For these reasons racing and piston aircraft engines are "dry sumped" using scavenge pumps and a swirl tank to separate oil from air which is also sucked up by the pumps.[1] The sump often contains a recess to collect solids that settle out at level beloe the oil pump pickup level and a small magnet to catch metal particles, usually included as part of the drain plug (sump plug) so it can be cleaned when the oil is drained out for changing. If large amount of metal particles are found on the plug it is advisable to remove the sump and inspect the engine closely internally as some sort of failure/excessive wear is taking place within the engine and if left a catastrophic failure is likely to occur during service, often resulting in a total loss of the engine.

A sump is also a low space that collects any often-undesirable liquids such as water or chemicals. A sump can also be an infiltration basin used to manage surface runoff water and recharge underground aquifers.[2]. Sump can also refer to an area in a cave where a underground flow of water exits the cave into the earth.

Other uses / Examples

One common example of a sump is the lowest point in a basement, into which flows water that seeps in from outside. If this is a regular problem, a sump pump that moves the water outside of the house may be used.

A sump can also be found in an aquarium, mainly a reef system. The sump sits below the main tank and is used as a filter, as well as a holding place of unsightly equipment such as heaters and protein skimmers. The main advantage of having a sump plumbed into an aquarium is the increase of water in the system, making it more stable and less prone to fluctuations of pH and salinity.

A diving snorkel can have a sump section located below the mouthpiece. This allows excess moisture from the breath and liquid from the ocean to settle and remain in the sump, so that it does not impair the snorkeler's breathing.

In a nuclear power plant's reactor housing, the role of the sump will be to collect any overflow of primary loop coolant; in this case, monitoring and pumping of the sump is an important part of the reactor's safety system.

The equivalent of a sump on a boat is the bilge.

In the human eye, the vitreous humour has a minor role as a metabolic sump[3].

In a foxhole, a grenade sump is a deeper hole dug inside the foxhole into which live grenades can be kicked to minimize damage from the explosion.

In medieval cosmology, the sump was the center of the cosmos, where the dregs and filth descended, with the celestial sphere far exalted above the world of fallen man.

See also


  1. Jeff Huneycutt. "Oil Pans For Power". Circle Track magazine. Retrieved on 2006-11-16.
  2. Fagin, Dan. "Ancient, Clean, Controversial". [dead link]
  3. An Illustrated Colour Text to Ophthalmology, 3rd edition. Batterbury, Bowling, Murphy. Page 5

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