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The Generation of

Compressed Air

To understand the properties of gases, the

fundamental gas laws and the physical effects
of compression and how to control them.
Some definitions
Air pressure
Air exerts a pressure on its surroundings

Sea level Atmospheric Pressure is 1.0 bar abs

Pure vacuum has a pressure of 0 bar

Some definitions
Gauge Pressure
Pressure of a system above atmospheric pressure

Absolute Pressure

The system pressure above a vacuum

Some definitions
Celsius or Centigrade
freezing point of water = 0 deg C

boiling point of water =100 deg C

Absolute or Kelvin
Absolute Zero = minus 273 deg. C
Some definitions
Pressure ratio
the ratio of the absolute outlet pressure to the
absolute inlet pressure of a compressor or a
compression stage
Some definitions
Usually quoted as litres or cubic metres

1 cubic metre contains 1000 litres

Gases and their properties
There are three well-known states of matter


Gases and their properties

Solids do not easily change shape and cannot

be compressed

Liquids can change shape but cannot be


Gases are easily compressed

Gases and their properties
Boyle’s Law
If a gas is compressed,

its volume gets smaller

but its pressure goes up

Pressure (P) x volume (V) =constant.

This works if the temperature does not change

Gases and their properties
Charles’s Law

If the temperature changes

pressure or volume will change in proportion

Pressure (P) = constant x Temperature (T)

Energy and air compression
Energy and air compression

Energy losses (friction) are usually about 25%.

Compressors perform best when fully loaded

When a gas is compressed, it heats up

If the heat is not removed,

the air temperature would rise by about 200 deg. C.

Energy and air compression

P x V= constant x T shows that

Temperature has an effect on pressure

and volume

Compressors are more efficient at very low


Cold air is dense and takes up less volume

Energy and air compression
Required compressor energy is controlled by 3 factors

The overall pressure achieved (usually 6 bar)

The temperature of the air entering the compressor

The design and efficiency of the compressor

Energy and air compression
Operate compressor under the following conditions

Discharge pressure only slightly above needed

Use the coolest air available (from outside)

Avoid pressure drops into the compressor

Clean air filters regularly

Control of compressors
Demand for compressed air will vary continuously

Undesirable for large motors to frequently stop / start

Large compressors usually run continuously

Small compressors are used to meet variations in

Water in compressed air
Air can contain quite a lot of water vapour

In cold dry climates, the amount is small,

maybe only 2 gms in a cubic metre

In tropical maritime climates

this rises to about 30 gms in a cubic metre

Water in compressed air
When air is compressed

this water vapour is also compressed

but the temperature rises

So it stays as vapour
Water in compressed air
Once the air is cooled down

it is over-saturated with water vapour

condensation occurs

This water has to be removed

Water in compressed air
It will gradually fill up the system

It will cause corrosion

It may freeze and cause blockages

Some applications need very dry air

Malt, flour (mouldy) Machinery (corrosion)

Water in compressed air
Dew point
the temperature at which air becomes saturated

and moisture starts to condense

at a given pressure
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