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Introduction to compressors
The machine which takes in air or any
other gas at low pressure and compresses
it to high pressure is called compressor.
The compressor is power consuming
machine in which mechanical work is
converted into pressure energy of fluid.
They are also considered as reversed heat
Uses of compressed air
To compress the refrigerant and to create
pressure difference in system.
Operating pneumatic tools.
To operate air motor in mines where fire
risks are more.
To compress air in gas turbine power plant.
Spray painting.
For sand blasting.
Operating blast furnaces.
Classification of compressors
The compressors are classified as follows:
According to design and principle of
Positive displacement type compressor: In
this type, air/gas is compressed by positive
displacement of air by piston or rotating
Examples: Reciprocating compressor,
Rotary compressor, etc.
Reciprocating Rotary
Roto dynamic compressors: In this type,
compression is carried out by a rotating
element imparting velocity to the flowing gas
and develops desired pressure, and
compression is achieved by dynamic action of
Examples: Centrifugal compressor
Axial flow Mixed flow
According to number of stages:
Single stage compressor Low delivery pressure(10
Multi stage compressor High delivery pressure(10

According to final(delivery) pressure of gas

Low pressure compressors : final pressure < 10 bar
Medium pressure compressors : final pressure between
10 bar to 80 bar
High pressure compressors : final pressure between 80
bar to 1000 bar

According to pressure ratio:

Fan : pressure ratio <1.1
Blower : pressure ratio >1.1 and <2.3
Compressors : pressure ratio >2.3
According to quantity of air delivered
Low capacity : volume flow rate<10
Medium capacity : volume flow rate between 10
to 300
High capacity : volume flow rate >300
According to number of cylinders:
Single cylinder
Multi cylinder

According to type of fluid to be

Air compressor
Gas compressor
Vapor compressor
According to action of piston:
Single acting compressors: They are the
reciprocating compressor which has piston
working only in one direction. There is one
suction and delivery stroke per revolution of
Double acting compressors: As from its name it uses its
both sides to compress the air. These types of compressors have
two sets of suction/intake and delivery/exhaust valve on both
sides of the piston .As the piston moves up and down, both
sides of the piston is utilized in compressing the air. The intake
and exhaust valve operates corresponding to the movement of
the piston or with the stroke of the compressor. The air is
compressed accordingly and delivered continuously as compared
to single-acting air compressor. Here both of sides are effectively
used for compressing the air.
According to methods of cooling:
Water cooled air compressors
Air cooled air compressors
According to arrangements of cylinders:
V type
W type Radial

According to types of drives:

Motor driven
I.C. engine driven
Turbine driven







Reciprocating compressor
Reciprocating compressors are widely
used for compressing air and it is
satisfactory for all ranges of pressures. The
number of cylinders may be more than
one. In single stage reciprocating
compressor pressure ratio is kept 5 to 8,
and the speed varies from 100 to 1500
Reciprocating compressors are driven by
electric motors, or I.C. engine. It is not
driven by gas turbines because turbines have
high rotational speed. The air/gas coming
from reciprocating compressor is not
continuous but intermittent. So the air/gas is
stored in receiver from where continuous
flow of air/gas can be supplied.
Reciprocating compressor generally seen
where there is requirement of high pressure
and low flow. Mostly where the air is used
for hand-tools, cleaning dust, small paint
jobs, commercial uses, etc.
Construction and working

The single stage, single cylinder, single acting

compressors consists of piston, cylinder,
cylinder head, connecting rod, crank shaft,
flywheel, crank case, water jacket, suction
valve and delivery valve as shown in fig.
The compressor takes inside successive
amount of volume of air from intake valve
and confined it in closed surface at that
time piston moves downward with the
closure of intake valve. Then there
is compression of air by reducing its
volume .Now the piston moves upward
and compress the air and then displace
the compressed air through exhaust
valve. And then again intake take place
and cycle repeat itself.
These types of compressor also called positive
displacement machines. They are available in
both as lubricated and oil-free.
The reciprocating compressor is single acting
when the compressing is accomplished using
only one side of piston and double acting when
both the sides of piston used.
Relatively Cheap.
Easy maintenance
Suitable for high pressure

Sounds too much. One has to arrange a room
for it or put it into isolating box.
High outlet temperature of compressed air.
High oil content in air piping.
Single stage reciprocating compressor :
Letus consider piston to be at top dead
centre (TDC) and move towards bottom
dead centre (BDC). Air gets into cylinder
during this stroke and is subsequently
compressed in next stroke with both inlet
valve and exit valve closed. After piston
reaching BDC it reverses its motion and
compresses the air inducted in previous
stroke. Compression is continued till the
pressure of air inside becomes sufficient to
cause deflection in exit valve.
At the moment when exit valve plate gets lifted the
exhaust of compressed air takes place. This piston again
reaches TDC from where downward piston movement
is again accompanied by suction. This is how
reciprocating compressor keeps on working as flow
device. Reciprocating compressor described above has
suction, compression and discharge as three prominent
processes getting completed in two strokes of piston
or one revolution of crank shaft.
Work done:
Compression of air in compressor may be
carried out following number of
thermodynamic processes such as isothermal
compression, polytropic compressor or
adiabatic compressor. Fig. shows the
thermodynamic cycle involved in compressor.
Theoretical cycle is shown neglecting clearance
volume but in actual cycle clearance volume
cannot be negligible.
Clearance volume is necessary in order to
prevent collision of piston with cylinder head,
accommodating valve mechanism etc.
The compressor is work consuming machine, hence
work done is negative.
pressure of air at inlet of compressor
pressure of air at outlet of compressor
volume of air before compression
volume of air after compression
absolute temperature of air before compression
absolute temperature of air after compression
Isentropic Compression


, W p1V1 2 1
1 p1

polytropic compression
n 1

n p n

W p1V1 2 1
n 1 p1

Isothermal compression
W RT1 ln
If compression process is isothermal, pV = C,
temperature remains constant, the change of internal
energy during compression process is zero. Thus as per
law of conservation of energy the entire work of
compression is related to the cooling medium
(surroundings). It is clear from for p-V, the area 1-2-3-
4 is less than area 1-2-3-4 and area 1-2-3-4. It means
that in isothermal compression no energy is wasted in
heating the air or increasing the internal energy. It has
been found that work required for compression is
minimum when the process is isothermal.
Methods of cooling:
Faster heat dissipation from inside of
compressor to outside by use of fins over
cylinder. Fins facilitate quick heat transfer from
air being compressed to atmosphere so that
temperature rises during compression can be
Water jacket may be provided around
compressor cylinder so that heat can be picked
by cooling water circulating through water
jacket. Cooling water circulation around
compressor regulates rise in temperature to
great extent.
The water may also be injected at the end of
compression process in order to cool the air
being compressed. This water injection near the
end of compression process requires special
arrangement in compressor and also the air gets
mixed with water and needs to be separated out
before being used.
In case of multistage compression in different
compressors operating serially, the air leaving one
compressor may be cooled up to ambient state or
somewhat high temperature before being injected
into subsequent compressor. This cooling of fluid
being compressed between two consecutive
compressors is called intercooling and is
frequently used in case of multistage compressors.
Single stage reciprocating
compressor with clearance:
With clearance volume the cycle is represented
on Fig. The work done for compression of air
polytropically can be given by the area enclosed
in cycle 1-2-3-4. Clearance volume in
compressors varies from 1.5% to 35%
depending upon type of compressor. In the
cylinder of reciprocating compressor (V1-V4)
shall be the actual volume of air delivered per
cycle.Vd = V1 V4. This (V1 V4) is actually the
volume of air in hated in the cycle and delivered
Work done for polytropic :
n 1

n p n

W p1 V1 V4 2 1
n 1 p1

Volumetric efficiency:

V3 V4
v 1 1
V1 V3 V3
The volumetric efficiency decreases with increase
pressure ratio . At r = 1 p2 = p1 and efficiency =
100%. It means that no compression takes place. For
given value of C and the delivery pressure is limited
due to decrease in in single stage reciprocating
compressor. Hence it is necessary to go for multistage
compressor to get desired pressure with satisfactory
value of .However higher pressure ratio up to 8 in a
single stage refrigerating compressor is used as
compared to air compressor because n in
refrigeration system is lower than that of air.

p2 n
v 1 C C

The efficiency decreases with increase

in the clearance ratio C. At C = 0,
clearance volume= 0, efficiency=
100%, no clearance is provided.
When the value of C and r are
constant, efficiency increases with n.
Free Air Delivery (FAD):
The free air delivery is the actual volume of air
delivered by the compressor when it reduced
to ambient pressure and temperature
conditions. It is expressed in and represents
the capacity of compressor. Following factors
reduce the FAD less than swept volume and
volumetric eff.
The presence of clearance volume.
The throttling of the air when it passes
through the inlet and outlet valves.
Heating of incoming air and
Actual (indicator) diagram for
single stage reciprocating
Mean effective pressure
The area of indicated diagram represents the
work done per cycle. The average height of the
indicator diagram in proper unit of pressure is
called the indicated mean effective pressure ( pm )
Area of indicator diagram X spring constant
Length of indicator diagram

workdone / cycle
sweptvolume / cycle

n 1

n p2 n

pm p1v 1
n 1 p1

Indicated power
The power consumed inside the cylinder, as mea
sured from the indicator diagram is termed as the
indicated power.
Workdone / min
Indicatedpower(IP) = kW
But, work done = pm L.A.N(x i), Nm

p m .L.A.N
IP = (x i), in kW
x = no. of cylinders per stage
i = 1 for single acting
i = 2 for double acting
Compressor efficiencies
Mechanical efficiency( m ): It is ratio of
Indicated power (IP) to the Brake power (BP) of
The power required to drive the compressor is
called the brake power or shaft power of the
compressor. 2 NT
B.P ,kW

I .P.
It varies from .85 to .96.
Isothermal efficiency(iso ) : It is the ratio of
isothermal work input (minimum work input) to
actual work input(polytropic work input).
isothermalwork input
actualwork input
p1 V1ln

n p n

p1 V1 2 - 1
n -1 p1

It is 100% when compression process is

isothermal (best because compressor needs
minimum work).
Adiabatic efficiency(ad ): It is the ratio of
actual work input to adiabatic work input.

Actualwork input
Adiabaticwork input

n p2 n

p1V1 -1
n -1 p1

p1V1 2 -1
-1 p1

Multi-stage reciprocating air
There are several disadvantages to compress the air at
high pressure in single stage reciprocating compressor.
To eliminate the limitations of single stage, the air is
compressed by more than one stage. As we know, if
pressure ratio is increased in single stage reciprocating
compressor the volumetric efficiency decrease. The
temperature of the air after compression is so high as to
cause mechanical problems and the amount of heat is
actually the energy loss. so compressor has to handle
more volume of air at high temperature.
The increase in temperature needs heavy
working parts. With this reasons, in multi-
stage compression the overall
compression ratio is divided into two or
more stages to have lower compression
ratios. An intercooler is used between two
stages so that the compressed air from the
first stage cools down before it enters
second stage with low temperature.
Advantages of multi-stage
The work done in compressing the air is
reduced, thus power can be saved.
Prevents mechanical problems as the air
temperature is controlled.
The suction and delivery valves remain in
cleaner condition as the temperature and
vaporization of lubricating oil is less
The machine is smaller and better balanced
Effects from moisture can be handled better, by
draining at each stage
Compression approaches near isothermal
A multi-stage compressor is more expensive in
initial cost than same capacity single stage
reciprocating compressor. This is due to multi-
stage compressor needs more than one cylinder,
intercoolers with water supply system.
Two stage- reciprocating air
Condition for minimum work or
maximum efficiency
The work required per cycle for the above two
stage reciprocating compressor without
clearance and perfect intercooling is given by:
n-1 n-1

p n p n

W= p1 V1 2 + 3 - 2
n -1 p1 p2

The work input will be minimum when 0
p3 p2
,pressure ratio per stage is equal
p2 p1

p2 p3 p1
Minimum work required for two
stage compressor

2n p 2n

Wmin = p1 V1 3 - 1
n -1 p1

If there are N numbers of stages, then condition o
minimum work required is
p 2 p3 p 4 p N+1
= = =____= = z say
p1 p 2 p3 pN
p2 p N+1 N 1
z = = = pressure ratio through compressor N
p1 1

n 1

Nn p Nn

Wmin p1V1 N 1 1
n 1 p1

Following conditions are necessary for
compressing air with minimum work
input in a multi-stage compressor with

Compression ratio in each stage is equal.

Air is cooled to initial temperature after
each stage of compression.
Work required in all stages is equal.
Actual p-V (indicator) diagram
for two stage compressor
Fluid Power Engineering by J.P.Hadiya,
Books India Publications.

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