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Process Fundamentals

Centrifugal Compressors

Air compressors of various designs are used widely in numerous applications. Compressed air has numerous uses throughout a facility including the operation of equipment and portable tools.

Three types of designs include

  1. Reciprocating compressor,
  2. Rotary compressor,
  3. Centrifugal air compressors.

Centrifugal Compressors

The centrifugal compressor, originally built to handle only large volumes of low pressure gas and air (maximum of 40 psig), has been developed to enable it to move large volumes of gas with discharge pressures up to 3,500 psig. However, centrifugal compressors are now most frequently used for medium volume and medium pressure air delivery. One advantage of a centrifugal pump is the smooth discharge of the compressed air.

Centrifugal Pump

Figure 6 Simplified Centrifugal Pump

The centrifugal force utilized by the centrifugal compressor is the same force utilized by the centrifugal pump. The air particles enter the eye of the impeller, designated D in Figure 6. As the impeller rotates, air is thrown against the casing of the compressor. The air becomes compressed as more and more air is thrown out to the casing by the impeller blades. The air is pushed along the path designated A, B, and C in Figure 6. The pressure of the air is increased as it is pushed along this path. Note in Figure 6 that the impeller blades curve forward, which is opposite to the backward curve used in typical centrifugal liquid pumps. Centrifugal compressors can use a variety of blade orientation including both forward and backward curves as well as other designs.

There may be several stages to a centrifugal air compressor, as in the centrifugal pump, and the result would be the same; a higher pressure would be produced. The air compressor is used to create compressed or high pressure air for a variety of uses. Some of its uses are pneumatic control devices, pneumatic sensors, pneumatic valve operators, pneumatic motors, and starting air for diesel engines.

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