Basics of Air Pressure: Displacement Compression and Dynamic Compression

Типы компрессоров Воздушные компрессоры Основная информация Вики-сайт о сжатом воздухе Рабочий объем Сжатый воздух

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Before you can learn about the different compressors and compression methods, we first have to introduce you to the two basic principles for the compression of gas. After that, we will compare the two and look into the different compressors in these categories.

What are the two basic principles of compression?

displacement and dynamic compression

There are two generic principles for the compression of air (or gas): Positive displacement compression and dynamic compression. The first one includes, for example, reciprocating (piston) compressors, orbital (scroll) compressors, and different types of rotary compressors (screw, tooth, vane).

In positive displacement compression, the air is drawn into one or more compression chambers, which are then closed from the inlet. Gradually the volume of each chamber decreases, and the air is compressed internally. When the pressure has reached the designed built-in pressure ratio, a port or valve is opened. The air is then discharged into the outlet system due to the continued reduction of the compression chamber's volume.

In dynamic compression, air is drawn between the blades on a rapidly rotating compression impeller and accelerated to a high velocity. The gas is then discharged through a diffuser, where the kinetic energy is transformed into static pressure. Most dynamic compressors are turbocompressors with an axial or radial flow pattern.

What are positive displacement compressors?

piston compressor

A bicycle pump is the simplest form of a positive displacement compression. Air is drawn into a cylinder and is compressed by a moving piston. Piston compressors have the same operating principle. They use a piston whose forward and backward movement is accomplished by a connecting rod and a rotating crankshaft.

If only one side of the piston is used for compression, this is called a single-acting compressor. If both the piston's top and undersides are used, the compressor is double acting. The pressure ratio is the relationship between absolute pressure on the inlet and outlet sides.

Accordingly, a machine that draws in air at atmospheric pressure (1 bar(a)) and compresses it to 7 bar overpressure, works at a pressure ratio of (7 + 1)/1 = 8.

The diagram for positive displacement compression

In the two graphs below, you'll find the pressure-volume relationship for a theoretical compressor and a realistic diagram for a piston compressor illustrated (respectively).

The stroke volume is the cylinder volume that the piston travels during the suction stage. The clearance volume is the volume underneath the inlet and outlet valves and above the piston. It must remain at the piston's top turning point for mechanical reasons.

Differences between the stroke volume and suction volume are due to the expansion of air remaining in the clearance volume before the suction starts. The practical design of a compressor, e.g. a piston compressor, results in a difference between the theoretical p/V diagram and the actual diagram.

The valves are never completely sealed and there is always a degree of leakage between the piston skirt and the cylinder wall. In addition, the valves can not fully open and close without a minimal delay. This results in a pressure drop when gas flows through the channels. The gas is also heated when flowing into the cylinder as a consequence of this design.

What are dynamic compressors?

In a dynamic compressor, the pressure increase takes place while the gas flows. The flowing gas accelerates to a high velocity by means of the rotating blades on an impeller. The velocity of the gas is subsequently transformed into static pressure when it is forced to decelerate under expansion in a diffuser.

Depending on the main direction of the gas flow used, these compressors are called radial or axial compressors. Compared to displacement compressors, a small change in the working pressure of dynamic compressors results in a large change in the flow rate.

Each impeller speed has an upper and lower flow rate limit. The upper limit means that the gas flow velocity reaches sonic velocity. The lower limit means that the counter pressure becomes greater than the compressor's pressure build-up, which means return flow inside the compressor. This, in turn, results in pulsation, noise and the risk for mechanical damage.

Compression in several stages

In theory, air or gas may be compressed isentropically (at constant entropy) or isothermally (at constant temperature). Either process may be part of a theoretically reversible cycle. If the compressed gas could be used immediately at its final temperature after compression, the isentropic compression process would have certain advantages.

In reality, the air or gas is rarely used directly after compression, and is usually cooled to ambient temperature before use. Consequently, the isothermal compression process is preferred, as it requires less work. A common, practical approach to executing this isothermal compression process involves cooling the gas during compression. At an effective working pressure of 7 bar, isentropic compression theoretically requires 37% higher energy than isothermal compression.

A practical method to reduce the heating of gas is to divide the compression into several stages. The gas is cooled after each stage before being compressed further to the final pressure. This also increases the energy efficiency, with the best result being obtained when each compression stage has the same pressure ratio. By increasing the number of compression stages, the entire process approaches isothermal compression. However, there is an economic limit for the number of stages the design of a real installation can use.


Formula isothermal compression

Compression work with isothermal compression:

Formula isentropic compression

Compression work with isentropic compression:

These relations show that more work is required for isentropic compression than for isothermal compression.

What is the difference between a turbocompressor and a positive displacement compressor?

At constant rotational speed, the pressure/flow curve for a turbocompressor differs significantly from an equivalent curve for a positive displacement compressor. The turbocompressor is a machine with a variable flow rate and variable pressure characteristic. On the other hand, a displacement compressor is a machine with a constant flow rate and a variable pressure. A displacement compressor provides a higher pressure ratio even at a low speed. Turbocompressors are designed for large air flow rates.

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