A device that converts power into potential energy stored in pressurized air is known as an air compressor. It uses either an electric motor, diesel or gasoline engine, etc. to convert power into potential energy.
An air compressor forces more amount of air into a storage tank to increase the pressure. The air compressor shuts off when the pressure of tank' reaches its engineered upper limit. Then the compressed air is present in the tank until called into use. The energy contained in the compressed air can be used for numerous applications by utilizing the kinetic energy of the air as it is released and the tank depressurizes. The air compressor turns on again and re-pressurizes the tank when tank pressure reaches its lower limit. Air compressors are one of the most necessary appliances found at construction sites, as they can be used as a power source for electric tools.
Types of Air Compressors:
There are many different types of air compressors, each with their own unique capabilities and drawbacks. Air compressors are categorized as either positive displacement or dynamic displacement, based on their internal mechanisms.
Positive Displacement Compressors:
Positive-displacement compressors also known as roto-dynamic types work by forcing air in a chamber whose volume is decreased to compress the air. Once the maximum pressure is reached, a port or valve opens and air is discharged into the outlet system from the compression chambe.
Common types of positive displacement compressors are:
- Piston-type: In this type of air compressor, the air compressors pumps air into an air chamber through the use of constant motion of pistons. One-way valves is used to guide air into and out of a chamber whose base consists of a moving piston.
- Rotary screw compressors: These compressor uses positive-displacement compression by matching two helical screws. These screws when turned, guide air into a chamber, whose volume is decreased as the screws turn. The maintainence of rotary screw compressors are one of the easiest task, as they are equipped with an internal cooling system and don't require much maintenance. They are generally large, industrial-sized machines that can be either lubricated with oil or run oil-free.
- Vane compressors: These compressor uses a slotted rotor with varied blade placement to guide air into a chamber and compress the volume. A fixed volume of air at high pressures is delivered by this type of compressor .
Dynamic displacement air compressors include axial compressors and centrifugal compressors. A rotating component imparts its kinetic energy to the air which is eventually converted into pressure energy in these types. Centrifugal force generated by a spinning impeller is used to accelerate and then decelerate captured air, which pressurizes it.
They can also be classified based on the design and principle of operation:
- Single-stage reciprocating compressor
- Two-stage reciprocating compressor
- Compound compressor
- Rotary-screw compressor
- Rotary vane pump
- Scroll compressor
- Turbo compressor
- Centrifugal compressor
Compressors can also be classified according to the pressure delivered:
- Low-pressure air compressors (LPACs): These have a discharge pressure of 150 psi or less
- Medium-pressure compressors: These have a discharge pressure of 151 psi to 1,000 psi
- High-pressure air compressors (HPACs): These have a discharge pressure above 1,000 psi
Uses of Air Compressors:
Air compressors have many uses. These include:
- Supplies high-pressure clean air to fill gas cylinders
- Supplies moderate-pressure clean air to a submerged surface supplied diver
- Supplies moderate-pressure clean air for driving some office and school building pneumatic HVAC control system valves
- Supplies a large amount of moderate-pressure air to power pneumatic tools, such as jackhammers, filling high pressure air tanks (HPA), for filling tires
- To generate large volumes of moderate-pressure air for large-scale industrial processes such as oxidation for petroleum coking or cement plant bag house purge systems
- Gas/diesel powered compressors are extensively used in remote areas with problematic access to electricity. As they are noisy, require ventilation for exhaust gases.
- Electric powered compressors are extensively used in workshops, production and garages with permanent access to electricity.
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