The Bernoulli Principle

What do baseball, airplanes, and your favorite singer have in common? If you guessed that it has something to do with the title of this blog, dear reader, you are correct.  We’ll unpack all that, but first, let’s talk about this Bernoulli guy:

Jacob Bernoulli was a prominent mathematician in the late 17th century.  We can blame calculus on him to some degree; he worked closely with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who (despite vicious accusations of plagiarism from Isaac Newton) appears to have developed the same mathematical methods independently from the more famous Newton.  He also developed the mathematical constant e (base of the natural logarithm) and a law of large numbers which was foundational to the field of statistics, especially probability theory.  But he’s not the Bernoulli we’re talking about.

Johann Bernoulli was Jacob’s younger brother.  He shared his brother’s passion for the advancement of calculus, and was among the first to demonstrate practical applications in various fields.  So for engineers especially, he can share the blame for calculus with his brother.  But he’s not the Bernoulli we’re talking about either.

Johann’s son, Daniel, clearly got his father’s math smarts as well as his enthusiasm for practical applications, especially in the field of fluid mechanics.  His kinetic theory of gases is widely known as the textbook (literally) explanation of Boyle’s law.  And the principle that bears his name (yes, THIS is the Bernoulli we’re talking about) is central to our understanding of curveballs, airplane wings, and vocal range.

Bernoulli’s Principle states that an increase in the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure (e.g., the fluid’s potential energy.)

  • In baseball, pitchers love it, and batters hate it.  When the ball is thrown, friction (mainly from the particular stitched pattern of a baseball) causes a thin layer of air to surround the ball, and the spin that a skilled pitcher puts on it creates higher air pressure on one side and lower air pressure on the other.  According to Bernoulli, that increases the air speed on the lower pressure side, and the baseball moves in that direction.  Since a well-thrown curveball’s axis of rotation is parallel to the ground, that means the ball drops as it approaches the plate, leaving the batter swinging above it, or awkwardly trying to “dig it out” of the plate.
  • The particular shape of an airplane wing (flat on the bottom, curved on the top) means that when the wing (along with the rest of the plane) is in motion, the air travelling over the curved top has to move faster than the air moving under the flat bottom.  This means the air pressure is lower on top, allowing the wing (again, along with the rest of the plane) to rise.
  • The anatomy inside your neck that facilitates speech is often called a voice box or vocal chords.  It’s actually a set of folds of tissue that vibrate and make sound when air (being expelled by the lungs when your diaphragm contracts) passes through.  When you sing different notes, you’re actually manipulating the area of air passage.  If you narrow that area, the air speed increases, making the pressure drop, skewing the shape of those folds so that they vibrate at a higher frequency, creating the high notes.  Opening up that area lowers the air speed, and the resultant increase in pressure lowers the vocal folds’ vibration frequency, making the low notes.
  • Bonus (because I work for EXAIR) Bernoulli’s Principle application: many EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products are engineered to take advantage of this phenomenon to optimize efficiency:
The high speed of the air exiting the (left to right) the Air Wipe, Super Air Knife, Super Air Nozzle, and Air Amplifier creates a low pressure (just like Daniel Bernoulli said) that causes entrainment of an enormous amount of air from the surrounding environment.  This maximizes flow while minimizing consumption of your compressed air.

If you’d like to discuss Bernoulli, baseball, singing, or a potential compressed air application, give me a call.  If you want to talk airplane stuff, perhaps one of the other Application Engineers can help…I don’t really like to fly, but that’s a subject for another blog.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Compressed Air Pressure Regulators Conserve And Protect

Imagine you’re enjoying a nice shower. A cascade of warm water is soothing your body – and spirit – then, someone starts the dishwasher. Or a load of laundry. Or flushes the toilet. Suddenly, the “soothe” turns to “scald” or “freeze,” depending on whether you’ve been robbed of hot, or cold water.  So, what happened?

What happened is, all of those “loads” on your house’s water supply that can ruin your shower experience are controlled by simple on/off valves…they open to permit a certain amount of water FLOW to pass.  When the dishwasher starts, or someone decides to wash a load of whites, the HOT water from your nice warm shower is diverted, leaving a stream of cold water.  When a toilet flushes, or it’s a load of colors, the COLD water is diverted…and that’s not just unpleasant, but downright painful.  Either way, (in my house anyway,) a teenager is getting read the riot act.

The same phenomenon can apply in a compressed air system, if simple flow control valves are used to throttle the appropriate supply of air to a pneumatic device.  If someone, for example, hooks up an air gun to blow off their tools or parts, the valves on EVERYTHING else will need to be opened up some to keep those devices working the same.  In the case of an air gun like this, it usually happens too quick to make the necessary adjustments (by hand) and you’re probably left with a machine tripped off-line, or a ruined part.

Pressure Regulators can prevent this by keeping (or regulating) their downstream pressure to a set value.  If a load elsewhere in the system is activated, the Pressure Regulator opens up, automatically, to keep its output constant.  When that load is secured, the Pressure Regulator closes back down accordingly.  Either way, no single load affects the operation of any others.

That’s only half the value of the use of Pressure Regulators, though.  The other half is, well…the value.  Just looking at a typical function of many EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products – blow off – they’ll all pretty much accomplish the task if you run them, unrestricted, straight off your header.  That’ll give you a good, strong blast of air flow…and it may be more than what’s required, and a waste of good air.  Pressure Regulators will prevent this by allowing you to “dial in” the supply pressure to whatever it takes to get the job done, and no more.

EXAIR offers a range of Pressure Regulators capable of handling air flow of up to 700 SCFM.

Compressed air isn’t free.  Heck, it isn’t even cheap.  Don’t use any more than you have to, and get the most out of what you do use.  Pressure Regulators are one important step in doing this.  If you’d like to talk about optimizing your use of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Compressed Air Flow Meter With Wireless Capability Makes Monitoring Demand Easy

Would you like the ability to monitor your plants compressed air usage from one convenient location?  If the answer is yes, EXAIR has just the solution to fit your needs, EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meter with Wireless Capability.

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Wireless capability is an option for EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter’s.  It is the efficient way to monitor your compressed air consumption wirelessly utilizing the ZigBee® mesh network.  This is accomplished by a module located within the meter that transmits data to an ethernet connected gateway.  Each meter has a range up to 100 feet (30 meters), however the ZigBee mesh network protocol is very versatile as it allows data to also be transmitted from meter to meter, effectively extending the distance over which the system can operate.  So large facilities with great distances to cover are not a problem.

The Digital Flowmeter with Wireless Capability is offered in a kit with a wireless output flow meter, wireless to ethernet gateway, drill guide, power supplies for each component, and ethernet cable for gateway connectivity.  These kits are best suited for new installations.  They are also available without a gateway if you are simply adding an additional meter to a pre-existing Gateway in your plant.  EXAIR simplifies this process by configuring each gateway to communicate with the flowmeter to provide the necessary communication for monitoring your system.  Models from 1/2″ to 4″  iron pipe are in stock. 5″, 6″ iron pipe,  copper pipe ranging from 3/4″ to 4″ diameter and aluminum pipe from 25mm to 101mm diameter are available with short lead time as a special product offering.  Each digital flowmeter is calibrated for the pipe size to which it is mounted and the large digital display shows air use in either SCFM or Cubic Meters per Hour.

Digital Flow Meter Kit
Digital Flowmeter w/ Wireless Capability, Gateway, and Drill Guide Kit

Setting up the EXAIR Digital Flow Meter with Wireless Capability is super easy.  After the meter is installed download the graphing software from our website and install on your computer.  There is also a video tutorial posted in the previous blog from Tyler Daniel, Video Blog: EXAIR’s New Wireless Digital Flowmeter Installation.

The Digital Flowmeter with Wireless Capability is designed for permanent or temporary mounting to the pipe.  It requires the user to drill two small holes through the pipe using the optional drill guide which includes the drill bit and locating fixture.  The two flow sensing probes of the flowmeter are inserted into these holes.  The unit seals to the pipe once the clamps are tightened.  No cutting, welding, adjustments or calibration are needed, ever!  If the unit needs to be removed, blocking rings are available for the 1/2″ to 4″  iron pipe sizes from stock with other sizes available on short lead time as special orders.

If you have questions on Digital Flowmeter’s, Digital Flowmeter’s with Wireless Capability or need expert advice on safe, quiet and efficient point of use compressed air products give us a call.   We would enjoy hearing from you!

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Robert Boyle And The Scientific Method

How do we know something is true? In grade school, you may remember being taught a process by which an observation elicits a question, from which a hypothesis can be derived, which leads to a prediction that can be tested, and proven…or not) These steps are commonly known as the Scientific Method, and they’ve been successfully used for thousands of years, by such legendary people of science as Aristotle (384 – 322 BC,) Roger Bacon (1219 – 1292,) Johannes Kepler (1571-1630,) Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and right up to today’s scientists who run the CERN Large Hadron Collider.  The collider is the largest machine in the world, and its very purpose is the testing and proving (or not) of hypotheses based on questions that come from observations (often made in the LHC itself) in ongoing efforts to answer amazingly complex questions regarding space, time, quantum mechanics, and general relativity.

The Scientific Method is actually the reason (more on this in a minute) for the name of a fundamental law of physics: Boyle’s Law.  It states:

“For a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.”

And can be mathematically represented:

PV=k, where:

  • P = is the pressure of a gas
  • V = is the volume of that gas, and
  • k = is a constant

So, if “k” is held constant, no matter how pressure changes, volume will change in inverse proportion.  Or, if volume changes, pressure will change in inverse proportion.  In other words, when one goes up, the other goes down.  It’s also quite useful in another formulaic representation, which allows us to calculate the resultant volume (or pressure,) assuming the initial volume & pressure and resultant pressure (or volume) is known:

P1V1=P2V2, where:

  • P1  and P2 are the initial, and resultant, pressures (respectively) and
  • V1  and V2 are the initial, and resultant, volumes (respectively)

This is in fact, what happens when compressed air is generated, so this formula is instrumental in many aspects of air system design, such as determining compressor output, reservoir storage, pneumatic cylinder performance, etc.

Back to the reason it’s called “Boyle’s Law” – it’s not because he discovered this particular phenomenon.  See, in April of 1661, two of Robert Boyle’s contemporaries, Richard Towneley and Henry Power, actually discovered the relationship between the pressure and volume of a gas when they took a barometer up & down a large hill with them.  Richard Towneley discussed his finding with Robert Boyle, who was sufficiently intrigued to perform the formal experiments based on what he called “Mr Towneley’s hypothesis.”  So, for completing the steps of Scientific Method on this phenomenon – going from hypothesis to law –  students, scientists, and engineers remember Robert Boyle.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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IMGP6394 image courtesy of Matt Buck, Creative Commons License

Starting a Leak Prevention Program

Since all compressed air systems will have some amount of leakage, it is a good idea to set up a Leak Prevention Program.  Keeping the leakage losses to a minimum will save on compressed air generation costs,and reduce compressor operation time which can extend its life and lower maintenance costs.

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There are generally two types of leak prevention programs:

  • Leak Tag type programs
  • Seek-and-Repair type programs

Of the two types, the easiest would be the Seek-and-Repair method.  It involves finding leaks and then repairing them immediately. For the Leak Tag method, a leak is identified, tagged, and then logged for repair at the next opportune time.  Instead of a log system, the tag may be a two part tag.  The leak is tagged and one part of the tag stays with the leak, and the other is removed and brought to the maintenance department. This part of the tag has space for information such as the location, size, and description of the leak.

The best approach will depend on factors such as company size and resources, type of business, and the culture and best practices already in place. It is common to utilize both types where each is most appropriate.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Baseline compressed air usage – knowing the initial compressed air usage will allow for comparison after the program has been followed for measured improvement.
  • Establishment of initial leak loss – See this blog for more details.
  • Determine the cost of air leaks – One of the most important components of the program. The cost of leaks can be used to track the savings as well as promote the importance of the program. Also a tool to obtain the needed resources to perform the program.
  • Identify the leaks – Leaks can be found using many methods.  Most common is the use of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector, like the EXAIR Model 9061.  See this blog for more details. An inexpensive handheld meter will locate a leak and indicate the size of the leak.

    ULD_Pr
    Using the Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to search for leaks in a piping system
  • Document the leaks – Note the location and type, its size, and estimated cost. Leak tags can be used, but a master leak list is best.  Under Seek-and-Repair type, leaks should still be noted in order to track the number and effectiveness of the program.
  • Prioritize and plan the repairs – Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Document the repairs – By putting a cost with each leak and keeping track of the total savings, it is possible to provide proof of the program effectiveness and garner additional support for keeping the program going. Also, it is possible to find trends and recurring problems that will need a more permanent solution.
  • Compare and publish results – Comparing the original baseline to the current system results will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the program and the calculate a cost savings. The results are to be shared with management to validate the program and ensure the program will continue.
  • Repeat As Needed – If the results are not satisfactory, perform the process again. Also, new leaks can develop, so a periodic review should be performed to achieve and maintain maximum system efficiency.

In summary – an effective compressed air system leak prevention and repair program is critical in sustaining the efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of an compressed air system.

If you have questions about a Leak Prevention Program or any of the 16 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Video Blog: EXAIR’s Efficiency Lab

If you’d like to know how efficient (or not,) quiet (or not,) and effective (or not) your current compressed air devices are, the EXAIR Efficiency Lab can help.  For more details, we hope you’ll enjoy this short video.

If you’d like to talk about getting the most out of your compressed air system, we’d love to hear from you.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Ultrasonic Leak Detector: Because Leaks Won’t Find (Or Fix) Themselves

I once worked in an equipment repair shop with a small and simple compressed air system…just a 5HP single acting piston compressor that sat atop a 50 gallon tank, in the corner by “The Big Truck”. The majority of our work was field service, and management was big on maintaining our service trucks, so we checked tire pressures every Monday morning as we rolled out, and kept a tire chuck handy to ensure proper inflation. It was also used to supply a couple of air guns that were used at our drill press and soldering/assembly station. One morning, I noticed the air compressor was running when I arrived…I thought it was odd, because I knew for a fact it hadn’t been used in at least 16 hours, but that compressed air went someplace, right? We had a leak. Well, at least one.

This was mid-December, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was characteristically slow, and typically devoted to a thorough shop cleaning. We also took the opportunity to get some bottles of soapy water and check for leaks at the handful of pipe fittings that comprised the system…for the uninitiated, if you have a leaky fitting, the escaping air blows bubbles in the soapy water (a cheap, messy way in other words). We found some bubbling, undid those fittings, cleaned them, and applied fresh pipe thread sealant (I don’t want to start any arguments, but I was taught that tape is more of a thread protectant than an effective sealing agent) and, in addition to replacing a couple of well-worn hoses, we were up and running.  And we never heard the compressor running first thing in the morning again.

Not all compressed air systems are as simple as that, though.  Many go from a room with several large & sophisticated air compressors, to corners of every building on the grounds.  Through valves & manifolds, to cylinders, machinery and blow offs, with more connections than you could soap-and-water check in a month.

In those cases, the EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector makes short(er) work of finding the leaks.  With both visual (LED’s on the face) and audible (headphones) indications, even very small leaks are easy to detect with the parabola installed.  The precise location can then be found with the tubular extension.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector “hones in” on the exact location of a leak in a compressed air line.

You’ll still have to fix the leaks yourself, but finding them is oftentimes more than half the battle.  And, once fixed, it can be worth a million (cubic feet of compressed air, that is.)

EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detectors are not only useful for finding compressed air leaks; they’re popular in a variety of other areas:

Additionally, they can be used to identify faulty bearings, brake systems, tire & tube leaks, engine seals, radiators, electrical relay arcing…anything that generates an ultrasonic sound wave.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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