How To Make Compressed Air Get Cold…A Couple Of Different Ways

The Vortex Tube makes cold air for the same reason that a can of compressed air gets cold when I clean my computer keyboard, right?

That’s a common question, and since they both start with compress air and end up with cold(er) air, it’s not an unreasonable assumption.  But the answer is no; they’re not the same.   Both are curious physical phenomena, though:

Cans of compressed air get cold while they’re discharging because of a thermodynamic principle known as the adiabatic effect.  When you pressurize a gas by compressing it into a container, you’re putting all those molecules into a smaller volume of space…and you’re adding potential energy by the compression.  Then, when you release that gas back to atmospheric pressure, that energy has to go somewhere…so it’s given off in the form of heat – from the air inside the can, as the pressure inside the can decreases.  Now, the air that’s not under as much pressure as it was when you pushed the button on top of the can is going to start coming out of the can pretty soon.  I mean, there’s only so much air in there, right?  So, since it’s given off that energy immediately upon the drop in pressure, when it comes out of the can, it’s at a lower temperature than it was before you started spraying it out.

Vortex Tubes, on the other hand, generate a flow of cold air by a completely different phenomenon of physics called, maybe not so curiously, the Vortex Tube principle:

You can get a lot more cold air – and a much lower temperature – from a Vortex Tube than you can from a can of compressed air.

If you need a reliable and dependable flow of cold air, look no further than EXAIR’s comprehensive line of Vortex Tubes and Spot Cooling Equipment.  We’ve got 24 models of Vortex Tubes to choose from, as well as “out of the box” solutions for cooling applications like the Adjustable Spot Cooler, Mini CoolerCold Gun Aircoolant Systems. and, to protect your sensitive electrical and electronic enclosures from heat, Cabinet Cooler Systems.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman

Application Engineer
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Sound Power Level and Sound Pressure

Energy…all day (and night) long, we humans are surrounded by – and bombarded by – all kinds of energy. Sometimes, the effects are pleasant; even beneficial: the warmth of the sun’s rays (solar energy) on a nice spring day is the sure-fire cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and is also the catalyst your body needs to produce vitamin D. Good things, both. And great reasons to get outside a little more often.

Sometimes, the effects aren’t so pleasant, and they can even be harmful. Lengthy, unprotected exposure to that same wonderful sun’s rays will give you a nasty sunburn. Which can lead to skin cancer. Not good things, either. And great reasons to regularly apply sunblock, and/or limit exposure if you can.

Sound is another constant source of energy that we’re exposed to, and one we can’t simply escape by going inside. Especially if “inside” is a factory, machine shop, or a concert arena. This brings me to the first point of today’s blog: sound power.

Strictly speaking, power is energy per unit time, and can be applied to energy generation (like how much HP an engine generates as it runs) or energy consumption (like how much HP a motor uses as it turns its shaft) For discussions of sound, though, sound power level is applied to the generation end. This is what we mean when we talk about how much sound is made by a punch press, a machine tool, or a rock band’s sound system.

Sound pressure, in contrast, is a measure of the sound power’s intensity at the target’s (e.g., your ear’s) distance from the source. The farther away you get from the sound’s generation, the lower the sound pressure will be. But the sound power didn’t change.

Just like the power made by an engine and used by a motor are both defined in the same units – usually horsepower or watts – sound power level (e.g. generation) and sound pressure (e.g. “use” by your ears) use the same unit of measure: the decibel.  The big difference, though, is that while power levels of machinery in motion are linear in scale, sound power level and pressure scales are logarithmic.  And that’s where the math can get kind of challenging.  But if you’re up for it, let’s look at how you calculate sound power level:

Sound Power Level Equation


Wis reference power (in Watts,) normally considered to be 10-12 W, which is the lowest sound perceptible to the human ear under ideal conditions, and

W is the published sound power of the device (in Watts.)

That’s going to give you the sound power level, in decibels, being generated by the sound source.  To calculate the sound pressure level:

Sound Power Level to Sound Pressure Equation


Lis the sound power level…see above, and

A is the surface area at a given distance.  If the sound is emitted equally in all directions, we can use the formula for hemispheric area, 2πrwhere r=distance from source to calculate the area.

These formulas ignore any effects from the acoustic qualities of the space in which the sound is occurring.  Many factors will affect this, such as how much sound energy the walls and ceiling will absorb or reflect.  This is determined by the material(s) of construction, the height of the ceiling, etc.

These formulas may help you get a “big picture” idea of the sound levels you might expect in applications where the input data is available.  Aside from that, they certainly put into perspective the importance of hearing protection when an analysis reveals higher levels.  OSHA puts the following limits on personnel exposure to certain noise levels:

Working in areas that exceed these levels will require hearing protection.

EXAIR’s line of Intelligent Compressed Air Products are engineered, designed, and manufactured with efficiency, safety, and noise reduction in mind.  If you’d like to talk about how we can help protect you and your folks’ hearing, call us.


The Case For The EXAIR Super Air Wipe

If you’ve ever used an air gun to blow something off, you’re familiar with the cleaning ability of compressed air.  If you can get the whole object blown off from where you’re standing, there really is no substitute…but what if you need to get to the other side…or sides?

Even if your product is not on fire, you probably wouldn’t want to “limbo” under it with an air gun…

This is where the EXAIR Super Air Wipe comes in…they allow you to blow a continuous, uniform 360° air stream, all around your product.  Consider their benefits:

*Sizes: the Super Air Wipe’s compact ring design means it won’t take up a lot of room; you just need a few inches, in any direction, to install one.  We stock them in eleven sizes, from 11″, all the way down to our brand-new 3/8″ diameter.

*Durability:  All EXAIR Super Air Wipes are assembled with stainless steel shims and hardware.  Models up to 4″ come with a rugged, stainless steel wire braided hose, connecting the two halves for compressed air supply.

The aluminum Super Air Wipe is available in 11 sizes; the stainless steel Super Air Wipe comes in 5 sizes…all from stock.

*Ease of installation:  Smaller sizes can be supported by the compressed air supply line, if a pipe is used and threaded into the connector hose’s 1/4 NPT port.  Larger sizes can likewise be adequately supported with pipe to both halves. All models have a bolt circle of 1/4″-20 tapped holes for more permanent and rigid mounting.  The split ring design is another key feature:

Simply open the two halves, and clamp them around your product…no threading!

*Corrosion resistance: Depending on the environment in which the Super Air Wipe will be installed, we offer them with aluminum (3/8″ – 11″ sizes) or stainless steel (3/8″ – 4″ sizes) bodies.

*Temperature rating: Aluminum Super Air Wipes are good to 400°F (204°C) and stainless steel models are good to 800°F (427°C.)

*Range of operation: We install a 0.002″ thick shim in all stock Super Air Wipes; this is suitable for a wide range of typical industrial/commercial blow off applications…a Pressure Regulator can then be used to “dial in” the air flow precisely to meet specific needs.  If a job calls for higher force & flow, additional 0.002″ shims can be installed.  Shim Sets come with the Super Air Wipe Kits, or individual shims can be ordered separately.

*Performance: Before the Super Air Wipe, a ring of nozzles was commonly used.  In fact, they still are, but we’re trying to fix that, at every opportunity we come across.  Problem with those is, it’s hard to get an even air flow all around, which leads to inconsistent blow off.  They can also be loud & inefficient, as we’ve found in numerous Efficiency Lab tests and Case Studies, like this one…

These wasteful and loud modular plastic tube blow offs…
…were replaced with EXAIR Super Air Wipes. 24 such replacements netted the customer an annual compressed air cost savings of over $13,000.00.

…and this one…

Implementing a Super Air Wipe salvaged a $30,000 job for this customer. Click on the picture to read all about it in our Case Study Library (registration required.)

Do you have a challenging blow off application that you need help with?  Call us to find out how an EXAIR Super Air Wipe (or another one of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products) can be a simple, quick & easy solution.

Custom Shims – Literally A Breeze For EXAIR

As proud as we are of being able to ship most any catalog product, same day, from stock (99.9831% of the time for on-time shipping in 2017…22 years straight for 99.9% or better,) we take a certain amount of pride in our ability to offer custom solutions for challenging applications as well. Our Engineering and Production teams have a deep well of resources (knowledge, experience, and capability) to draw from, which allows us to meet those challenging applications head-on, in short order.

The one I’m writing about today isn’t exactly one of those challenging ones…

A machine fabricator had a special need for an Air Knife. It had to be Stainless Steel, and it had to be 30″ long. No problem so far…that’s a Model 110030SS 30″ Stainless Steel Air Knife, and it’s on the shelf. Thing is, they only needed 26″ worth of air flow; a full 30″ width was going to disturb, and maybe damage, the edges of the sheet of material that the air was being blown onto.

So we made a custom shim for the Air Knife.  Now, we make these all the time, in all kinds of configurations…hence the term “custom.”  Since this one was blowing onto a web where they didn’t want to disturb the material on the far edges, we made this shim to provide 26″ of flow, on center.  We could just as easily made it to provide 26″ of flow starting at one end or the other, or a specified distance from one end or the other.  Or 13″ of flow on both ends, with 4″ of no flow in the middle, for a total of 26″.

If your application is more challenging than a custom shim, we’ve also made Air Knives with (left to right) curved radius, special material (glass filled PEEK shown here,) flat, double-sided, and even one with end-mount threaded holes.

Regardless of how challenging (or not) your compressed air product application is, we’re here to discuss, any time you’re ready.  Call us.


Line Loss: What It Means To Your Compressed Air Supply Pipe, Tubing, And Hose

“Leave the gun. Take the canolli.”

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!”

“This EXAIR 42 inch Super Air Knife has ¼ NPT ports, but the Installation and Operation Instructions recommend feeding it with, at a minimum, a ¾ inch pipe…”

If you’re a movie buff like me, you probably recognize 75% of those quotes from famous movies. The OTHER one, dear reader, is from a production that strikes at the heart of this blog, and we’ll watch it soon enough. But first…

It is indeed a common question, especially with our Air Knives: if they have 1/4 NPT ports, why is such a large infeed supply pipe needed?  It all comes down to friction, which slows the velocity of the fluid all by itself, and also causes turbulence, which further hampers the flow.  This means you won’t have as much pressure at the end of the line as you do at the start, and the longer the line, the greater this drop will be.

This is from the Installation & Operation Guide that ships with your Super Air Knife. It’s also available from our PDF Library (registration required.)

If you want to do the math, here’s the empirical formula.  Like all good scientific work, it’s in metric units, so you may have to use some unit conversions, which I’ve put below, in blue (you’re welcome):

dp = 7.57 q1.85 L 104 / (d5 p)


dp = pressure drop (kg/cm2) 1 kg/cm2=14.22psi

q = air volume flow at atmospheric conditions (FAD, or ‘free air delivery’) (m3/min) 1 m3/min = 35.31 CFM

L = length of pipe (m) 1m = 3.28ft

d = inside diameter of pipe (mm) 1mm = 0.039”

p = initial pressure – abs (kg/cm2) 1 kg/cm2=14.22psi

Let’s solve a problem:  What’s the pressure drop going to be from a header @80psig, through 10ft of 1″ pipe, feeding a Model 110084 84″ Aluminum Super Air Knife (243.6 SCFM compressed air consumption @80psig)…so…

q = 243.6 SCFM, or 6.9 m3/min

L = 10ft, or 3.0 m

d = 1″, or 25.6 mm

p = 80psig, or 94.7psia, or 6.7 kg/cm2

1.5 psi is a perfectly acceptable drop…but what if the pipe was actually 50 feet long?

Again, 1.5 psi isn’t bad at all.  8.2 psi, however, is going to be noticeable.  That’s why we’re going to recommend a 1-1/4″ pipe for this length (d=1.25″, or 32.1 mm):

I’m feeling much better now!  Oh, I said we were going to watch a movie earlier…here it is:

If you have questions about compressed air, we’re eager to hear them.   Call us.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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When Efficiency And Practicality Collide

Even if you’re a casual reader of our blogs, you already know that EXAIR Application Engineers LOVE to preach efficiency in the use of compressed air…it’s our “bread and butter;” the very nature of our business. This year, we’re celebrating thirty-five years of leading the way in the development of efficient, safe, and quiet compressed air products. Our track record of success as a solutions provider across a diverse range of industrial and commercial applications is well documented in our blogs, as well as Knowledge Base and Case Study Libraries.  We devote considerable resources (engineering, research & development, product testing, etc.) to making certain that EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products cost less to operate, and perform better, than whatever you’re using right now.

Strange as it may seem, though, sometimes our products are EXTREMELY popular in cases where they INCREASE a facility’s consumption of compressed air…by replacing something that DOESN’T use compressed air at all:

*I’ve written before about how our Large Maximum Cold Temperature Vortex Tubes have replaced liquid nitrogen rigs in freeze sealing operations.  Now, a Vortex Tube directs a portion of its air supply to (usually) unusable hot exhaust, in order to generate the usable flow of cold air.  When compared to the costs of liquid nitrogen and the resources involved to get it where it needs to be, though, the cost of the compressed air needed to operate the Vortex Tube is indeed the practical solution.

A 1/4 ton of refrigeration from a product that fits in the palm of your hand, and all you need is a supply or compressed air!

*Line Vacs are probably THE prime example of the value of using compressed air where it wasn’t used before…replacing a “bucket and ladder” operation:

Straight from our Catalog, a perfect example of using valuable compressed air to save even more valuable resources.

*Then there are the situations that just come down to time.  In large spaces, our Super Blast Safety Air Guns can be used to “sweep” the floor in a fraction of the time it takes an operator with a push broom.

Super Blast Safety Air Gun makes short work of large area cleanup.

To make a long story just a little bit longer…if you’re using compressed air, you can use it better with EXAIR’s engineered compressed air products.  And there are plenty of practical applications where you’re not using compressed air right now too.  If you’d like to find out more about either one, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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Ion Air Jets Make Beekeeper’s Operation As Sweet As Honey

A honey producer sells their product in specialty glass jars. They pay a premium for these jars, as they enhance the appearance of their product, so the “visual” is obviously very important to them. So much so, that they’re willing to go to great lengths to make sure that the jars are sparkly clean and pristine before filling them with honey.

It’s a given that the inside needs to be clean…it’s a food product, so, of course, there’s a thorough cleaning process for that. The outsides of the jars, though, would sometimes have a little dust or debris left over in the ‘nooks and crannies’ which took away from the crystal clear appearance of the rest of the jar.

They got a Model 8494 GEN4 Ion Air Jet Kit, which they use to remove all of this dust & debris from the outside of the bottle, and then they got another Model 8194 GEN4 Ion Air Jet (which uses the same Power Supply, Filter Separator, and Pressure Regulator from the 8494 Kit) to blow an “insurance” blast of ionized air inside the bottle…just in case. “You can’t be too careful” is a popular mantra for folks who make food products, it seems!

Compact, convenient, easy to use: EXAIR Model 8194 GEN4 Ion Air Jet creates a focused blast of ionized air for static dissipation and cleaning.

Ionized air is extremely effective for ensuring the cleanliness of glass surfaces. Window makers love our Super Ion Air Knives. Some big name sunglasses manufacturers use our Ion Air Jets to ensure the highest quality and consistency of their products. Ion Air Jets and Ion Air Cannons are commonly used to keep optics clean & clear in critical vision inspection systems. If you’d like to find out more about improving “visuals” with ionized air, give me a call.