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
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Intelligent Compressed Air: Avoid Pressure Drop

A critical component to optimal performance of any compressed air operated product is ensuring sufficient compressed air flow. Simply put, inadequate air flow won’t allow you to get the job done.

As compressed air moves through the distribution system, it encounters friction inside of the walls of the pipe, tube, hose, etc. The diameter of the pipe, length, number of direction changes, and finish surface of the inner wall all play a part in this. A drop in air pressure will occur as a result of this friction. In addition to pressure drops experienced due to the distribution system, they can also occur at the point of use.

Common analog pressure gauge

When designing and maintaining your compressed air system, pressure measurements should be taken across varying points to identify (and fix) any issues before they create a greater problem down the road. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, these are the places you should take regular pressure measurements to determine your system operating pressure:

  • Inlet to compressor (to monitor inlet air filter) vs. atmospheric pressure
  • Differential across air/lubricant separator
  • Interstage on multistage compressors
  • Aftercooler
  • At treatment equipment (dryers, filters, etc.)
  • Various points across the distribution system
  • Check pressure differentials against manufacturers’ specifications, if high pressure drops are noticed this indicates a need for service

*More recent compressors will measure pressure at the package discharge, which would include the separator and aftercooler.

Once you’ve taken these measurements, simply add the pressure drops measured and subtract that value from the operating range of your compressor. That figure is your true operating pressure at the point of use.

If your distribution system is properly sized and the pressure drops measured across your various equipment are within specifications, any pressure drop noticed at the point of use is indicative of an inadequate volume of air. This could be due to restrictive fittings, undersized air lines, hose, or tube, or an undersized air compressor. Check that the point of use product is properly plumbed to compressed air per the manufacturer’s specifications.

EXAIR Products are designed to minimize this pressure drop by restricting the flow of compressed air at the point of use. The more energy (pressure) that we’re able to bring to the point of use, the more efficient and effective that energy will be. The photo below shows two common examples of inefficient compressed air usage. With an open-ended blow off, a pressure drop occurs upstream inside of the supply line. If you were to measure the pressure directly at the point of use, while in operation, you’d find that the pressure is significantly lower than it is at the compressor or further up the line. In the other photo with modular style hose, some pressure is able to be built up but if it gets too high the hose will blow apart. These types of modular style hose are not designed to be used with compressed gases.

open end blow offs
They may be inefficient, but they sure are loud…

EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzles, on the other hand, keep the compressed air pressure right up to the point of discharge and minimize the pressure drop. This, in addition to the air entrained, allows for a high force while maximizing efficiency. If you’d like to talk about how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product could help to minimize pressure drop in your processes give us a call.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD


Pressure gauge photo courtesy of Cliff Johnson via Flickr Creative Commons License

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
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

IMGP6394 image courtesy of Matt Buck, Creative Commons License

Proper Air Supply Line Size Equals Proper Performance

Properly sized piping will allow your compressed air operated equipment to operate efficiently!

On any given day myself and my Application Engineering Brethren here at EXAIR have discussions with customers on air starvation of any given EXAIR Product.  The calls generally start off the same, “The Line Vac is not performing like it should”.  We at EXAIR absolutely want to help you get the most out of our products and we certainly want them to perform to your expectation.  However they must be supplied with clean/dry compressed air at sufficient pressure and volume.

Just the other day I was discussing a performance issue with a customer on a 1″ Line Vac.  The customer thought he needed a larger Line Vac.  I asked the questions regarding the diameter of his Supply Line and if he was using Quick Connect or Push Lock connectors.  He was attempting to feed this Line Vac with 1/4″ Poly Tubing through a elbow Push to Loc fitting.

This 1″ Line Vac was being severely starved for air and therefore not performing as expected.  The 1″ Line Vac require’s 14.7 SCFM @ 80PSI to reach the rated performance of 42″ of water column.

Below is a table for Pipe/Hose sizing from the Line Vac installation manual that you can use as a reference guide.  It is recommended that if using hose for the supply air to go up to the next size over the pipe recommendation.


Don’t forget that quick connects and Push Lock fittings are not recommended and could restrict the air flow which will have a negative impact on performance.

If you would like to discuss Line Vacs or any EXAIR product,  I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

CFM, ICFM, ACFM, SCFM: Why so many volumetric flow rates?

Air Compressor

Flow rate is the quantity of material that is moved per unit of time.  Generally, the quantity of material can be expressed as a mass or a volume.  For example, mass flow rates are in units of pounds per minute or kilograms per hour.  Volumetric flow rates are stated in cubic feet per minute or liters per hour.  The trick begins when volumetric flow rates are used for a compressible gas.  In this blog, I will go over the various acronyms and the reasons behind them.

What acronyms will be covered?

CFM – Cubic Feet per Minute

SCFM – Standard Cubic Feet per Minute

ACFM – Actual Cubic Feet per Minute

ICFM – Inlet Cubic Feet per Minute

The volumetric component of the flow rate is CFM or Cubic Feet per Minute.  This term is commonly used for rating air compressors.  From history of air compressors, they could calculate the volume of air being drawn into the air compressor by the size of cylinder.  With the volume of the compression chamber and the rotations per minute of the motor, RPM, they could calculate the volumetric air flows.  As conditions change like altitude, temperature, and relative humidity, the value of CFM changes.  To better clarify these conditions, compressor manufacturers decided to add terms with definition.  (For your information, air compressors still use CFM as a unit of air flow, but now this is defined at standard temperature and pressure).

The first letter in front of CFM above now defines the conditions in which the volumetric air flow is being measured.  This is important for comparing pneumatic components or for properly sizing pneumatic systems. Volume is measured with three areas: temperature, pressure, and relative humidity.  We can see this in the Ideal Gas Law: P * V = n * R * T or Equation 1:

V = n * R * T / P

V – Volume

n – Number of molecules of gas

R – Universal Gas Constant

T – Absolute Temperature

P – Absolute Pressure

The volume of air can change in reference to pressure, temperature, and the number of molecules.  Where is the relative humidity?  This would be referenced in the “n” term.  The more water vapor, or higher RH value, the less molecules of air is in a given volume.

SCFM is the most commonly used term, and it can be the most confusing.  The idea of this volumetric air flow is to set a reference point for comparisons.  So, no matter the pressure, temperature, or relative humidity, the volumetric air flows can be compared to each other at that reference point.  There have been many debates about an appropriate standard temperature and pressure, or STP.  But as long as you use the same reference point, then you can still compare the results.  In this blog, I will be using the Compressed Air and Gas Institute, CAGI, reference where the “Standard” condition is at 14.5 PSIA, 68 deg. F, and 0% RH.  Since we have a reference point, we still need to know the actual conditions for comparison.  It is like having a location of a restaurant as a reference, but if you do not know your current location, you cannot reach it.   Similarly, we are “moving” the air from its actual condition to a reference or “Standard” condition.  We will need to know where the air began in order to reach that reference point.  We will talk more about this later in this blog.

ACFM is the volumetric air flow under actual conditions.  This is actually the “true” flow rate.  Even though this term is hardly used, there are reasons why we will need to know this value.  We can size an air compressor that is not at “Standard” conditions, and we can use this value to calculate velocity and pressure drop in a system.  We can correlate between SCFM and ACFM with Equation 2:

ACFM = SCFM * [Pstd / (Pact – Psat Φ)] * (Tact / Tstd)


ACFM = Actual Cubic Feet per Minute
SCFM = Standard Cubic Feet per Minute
Pstd = standard absolute air pressure (psia)
Pact = absolute pressure at the actual level (psia)
Psat = saturation pressure at the actual temperature (psi)
Φ = Actual relative humidity
Tact = Actual ambient air temperature (oR)
Tstd = Standard temperature (oR)

ICFM is one of the newest terms in the history of air compressors.  This is where devices are added to the inlet of an air compressor, affecting the flow conditions.  If you have a blower on the inlet of an air compressor, the volumetric flow rate changes as the pressure and temperature rises at the “Inlet”.  If a filter is used, then the pressure drop will decrease the incoming pressure at the “Inlet”.  These devices that affect the volumetric flow rate for an air compressor should be considered.  The equation to relate the ACFM to ICFM is with Equation 3:

ICFM = ACFM * (Pact / Pf) * (Tf / Tact)


ICFM = Inlet Cubic Feet Per Minute

Pf  = Pressure after filter or inlet equipment (PSIA)

Tf = Temperature after filter or inlet equipment (°R)

Examples of these different types of flow rates can be found here in this EXAIR blog by Tyler Daniel.

To expand on my explanation above about SCFM and ACFM, a technical question comes up about the pressure when using SCFM.  The reference point of 14.5 PSIA is in the definition of SCFM.  Remember, this is only a reference point.  The starting location is actually required.  This would be the ACFM value where the air values are true and actual.  As an example, two air nozzles are rated for 60 SCFM.  An EXAIR Super Air Nozzle, model 1106, is cataloged at 80 PSIG, and a competitor is cataloged at 60 PSIG.  By comparison, they look like they use the same amount of compressed air, but actually they do not.  To simplify Equation 2, we can compare the two nozzles at the same temperature and RH at 68 Deg. F and 0% RH respectively.  This equation can be reduced to Equation 4:

ACFM = SCFM * 14.5 / (P + 14.5)

@60 PSIG Competitor:

ACFM = 60 SCFM * 14.5 PSIA/ (60 PSIG + 14.5 PSIA)

= 11.7 ACFM

@80 PSIG EXAIR Super Air Nozzle:

ACFM = 60 SCFM * 14.5 PSIA / (80 PSIG + 14.5PSIA)

= 9.2 ACFM

Even though the SCFM is the same amount, you are actually using 21% more air with the competitive nozzle that was reported at 60 PSIG.  So, when it comes to rating compressed air products or air compressors, always ask the conditions of pressure, temperature and RH.  The more you know about volumetric flow rates, the better decision that you can make.  If you need help, you can always contact our application engineers at EXAIR.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb


Pressure – The Inner Working of the Basic Pressure Gauge

Everyday here at EXAIR we talk about pressure, specifically compressed air pressure. The other day I was looking up our model 9011, 1/4″ NPT Pressure Gauge , and it got me to wondering just how does this small piece of industrial equipment work. The best way to find out is to tear it apart.


Most mechanical gauges utilize a Bourdon-tube. The Bourdon-tube was invented in 1849 by a French watchmaker, Eugéne Bourdon.  The movable end of the Bourdon-tube is connected via a pivot pin/link to the lever.  The lever is an extension of the sector gear, and movement of the lever results in rotation of the sector gear. The sector gear meshes with a spur gear (not visible) on the indicator needle axle which passes through the gauge face and holds the indicator needle.  Lastly, there is a small hair spring in place to put tension on the gear system to eliminate gear lash and hysteresis.

When the pressure inside the Bourdon-tube increases, the Bourdon-tube will straighten. The amount of straightening that occurs is proportional to the pressure inside the tube. As the tube straightens, the movement engages the link, lever and gear system that results in the indicator needle sweeping across the gauge.

Pressure Gauge Top

The video below shows the application of air pressure to the Bourdon-tube and how it straightens, resulting in movement of the link/lever system, and rotation of the sector gear –  resulting in the needle movement.

If you need a pressure gauge or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
Like us on Facebook
Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

Rotary Scroll-Type Compressor

Over the last few months, my EXAIR colleagues and I have blogged about several different types of air compressor types including single and double acting reciprocating, rotary screw and sliding vane air compressors. You can click on the links above to check those out. Today, I will review the basics of the rotary scroll-type compressor.

The rotary scroll type compressor falls under the positive displacement-type, the same as the other types previously discussed.  A positive displacement type operates under the premise that a given quantity of air is taken in, trapped in a compression chamber and the physical space of the chamber is mechanically reduced.  When a given amount of air occupies a smaller volume, the pressure of the air increases.

Each of the previous positive displacement type compressors use a different mechanism for the reduction in size of the compression chamber. The rotary scroll uses two inter-meshing scrolls, that are spiral in shape. One of the scrolls is fixed, and does not move (in red).  The other scroll (in black) has an “orbit” type of motion, relative to the fixed scroll. In the below simulation, air would be drawn in from the left, and as it flows clockwise through the scroll, the area is reduced until the air is discharged at a high pressure at the center.

How it Works- A fixed scroll (red), and an ‘orbiting’ scroll (black) work to compress the air

It is of note that the flow from start to finish is continuous, providing air delivery that is steady in pressure and flow, with little or no pulsation.

There is no metal to metal sliding contact, so lubrication is not needed.  A drawback to an oil free operation is that oil lubrication tends to reduce the heat of compression and without it, the efficiency of scroll compressors is less than that of lubricated types.

The advantages of the rotary scroll type compressor include:

  • Comes as a complete package
  • Comparatively efficient operation
  • Can be lubricant-free
  • Quiet operation
  • Air cooled

The main disadvantage:

  • A limited range of capacities is available, with low output flows

EXAIR recommends consulting with a reputable air compressor dealer in your area, to fully review all of the parameters associated with the selection and installation of a compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about compressed air or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
Like us on Facebook
Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

Rotary Scroll GIF:  used from of Public Domain