What’s In My Air, And Why Is It Important?

Everyone knows there’s oxygen in our air – if there wasn’t oxygen in the air you’re breathing right now, reading this blog would be the least of your concerns. Most people know that oxygen, in fact, makes up about 20% of the earth’s atmosphere at sea level, and that almost all the rest is nitrogen. There’s an impressive list of other gases in the air we breathe, but what’s more impressive (to me, anyway) is the technology behind the instrumentation needed to measure some of these values:

Reference: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, edited by David R. Lide, 1997.

We can consider, for practical purposes, that air is made up of five gases: nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and water vapor (more on that in a minute.)  The other gases are so low in concentration that there is over 10 times as much carbon dioxide as all the others below it, combined.

About the water vapor: because it’s a variable, this table omits it, water vapor generally makes up 1-3% of atmospheric air, by volume, and can be as high as 5%.  Which means that, even on a ‘dry’ day, it pushes argon out of the #3 slot.

There are numerous reasons why the volumetric concentrations of these gases are important.  If oxygen level drops in the air we’re breathing, human activity is impaired.  Exhaustion without physical exertion will occur at 12-15%.  Your lips turn blue at 10%.  Exposure to oxygen levels of 8% or below are fatal within minutes.

Likewise, too much of other gases can be bad.  Carbon monoxide, for example, is a lethal poison.  It’ll kill you at concentrations as low as 0.04%…about the normal amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For the purposes of this blog, and how the makeup of our air is important to the function of EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, we’re going to stick with the top three: nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapor.

Any of our products are capable of discharging a fluid, but they’re specifically designed for use with compressed air – in basic grade school science terms, they convert the potential energy of air under compression into kinetic energy in such a way as to entrain a large amount of air from the surrounding environment.  This is important to consider for a couple of reasons:

  • Anything that’s in your compressed air supply is going to get on the part you’re blowing off with that Super Air Nozzle, the material you’re conveying with that Line Vac, or the electronics you’re cooling with that Cabinet Cooler System.  That includes water…which can condense from the water vapor at several points along the way from your compressor’s intake, through its filtration and drying systems, to the discharge from the product itself.
  • Sometimes, a user is interested in blowing a purge gas (commonly nitrogen or argon) –  but unless it’s in a isolated environment (like a closed chamber) purged with the same gas, most of the developed flow will simply be room air.

Another consideration of air make up involves EXAIR Gen4 Static Eliminators.  They work on the Corona discharge principle: a high voltage is applied to a sharp point, and any gas in the vicinity of that point is subject to ionization – loss or gain of electrons in their molecules’ outer valences, resulting in a charged particle.  The charge is positive if they lose an electron, and negative if they gain one.  Of the two gases that make up almost all of our air, oxygen has the lowest ionization energy in its outer valence, making it the easier of the two to ionize.  You can certainly supply a Gen4 Static Eliminator with pure nitrogen if you wish, but the static dissipation rate may be hampered to a finite (although probably very small) degree.

At EXAIR Corporation, we want to be the ones you think of when you think of compressed air.  If you’ve got questions about it, give us a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Air photo courtesy of Bruno Creative Commons License

Heat Transfer – 3 Types

When you have two objects and they are of different temperatures, we know from experience that the hotter object will warm up the cooler one, or conversely, the colder object will cool down the hotter one.  We see this everyday, such as ice cooling a drink, or a fan cooling a person on a hot day.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that heat (energy) transfers from an object of a higher temperature to an object of a lower temperature. The higher temperature object has atoms with higher energy levels and they will move toward the lower energy atoms in order to establish an equilibrium. This movement of heat and energy is called heat transfer. There are three common types of heat transfer.13580963114_f222b3cdd9_z

Heat Transfer by Conduction

When two materials are in direct contact, heat transfers by means of conduction. The atoms of higher energy vibrate against the adjacent atoms of lower energy, which transfers energy to the lower energy atoms, cooling the hotter object and warming the cooler object. Fluids and gases are less heat conductive than solids (metals are the best heat conductors) because there are larger distances between atoms.  Solids have atoms that are closer together.

Heat Transfer by Convection

Convection describes heat transfer between a surface and a liquid or gas in motion. The faster the fluid or gas travels, the more convective heat transfer that occurs. There are two types of convection:  natural convection and forced convection. In natural convection, the motion of the fluid results from the hot atoms in the fluid moving upwards and the cooler atoms in the air flowing down to replace it, with the fluid moving under the influence of gravity. Example, a radiator puts out warm air from the top, drawing in cool air through the bottom. In forced convection, the fluid, air or a liquid, is forced to travel over the surface by a fan or pump or some other external source. Larger amounts of heat transfer are possible utilizing forced convection.

Heat Transfer by Radiation

Radiation refers to the transfer of heat through empty space. This form of heat transfer does not require a material or even air to be between the two objects; radiation heat transfer works inside of and through a vacuum, such as space. Example, the radiation energy from the sun travels through the great distance through the vacuum of space until the transfer of heat warms the Earth.

EXAIR‘s engineered compressed air products are used every day to force air over hot surfaces to cool, as well as dry and/or blow off hot materials. Let us help you to understand and solve your heat transfer situations.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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The picture “Energy Transfer – Heat” by Siyavula Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Knowing Your Symbols Is Key To Understanding Your Drawings

There are all kinds of engineering drawings, used for all kinds of purposes:

  • Pipe fitters and millwrights use Plan & Elevation drawings to make sure fluid system flanges, elbows, tees, etc., line up with each other, and don’t run into anything.
  • Exploded view drawings help maintenance folks identify parts, and, when they need replaced, make sure the new ones go in the same way the old ones came out.
  • Fabrication and machining drawings (usually to scale) are used to ensure the part being made is the right size & shape, that mounting holes are in the right place, and that critical surfaces are as flat & smooth as they need to be.
  • Then there’s the Piping & Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID)…it depicts an overall view of a system, showing the flow (usually fluid or electricity) through that system’s components, giving the viewer an understanding of the operation, and expected results from said operation.  It should not be confused with its simpler cousin, the flow chart that is so dreaded by OTE-types (“Other Than Engineer”…you know who you are,) of which these are my favorite examples:
There’s a lot of “life lesson” in these two graphics.

The big difference between a flow chart and a P&ID is the symbols.  In fact, you can find ISO & ANSI standard symbols for many components you’ll find in fluid & electrical P&ID’s.  Some examples of symbols you might find in a compressed air system are:

Compressors:

The one on the left can be used for any air compressor. The others denote specific types of air compressor (from left:) Centrifugal, Diaphragm, Piston, Rotary, and Screw.

Air preparation & handling:

The symbols on the left denote the EXAIR products on the right: Automatic Drain Filter Separator, Oil Removal Filter, and Pressure Regulator

Instrumentation and control:

The symbols on top denote the EXAIR products below (left to right): Flowmeter, Pressure Gauge, and Solenoid Valve

Occasionally, we’re asked if there are standard ANSI or ISO symbols for any of our  engineered Intelligent Compressed Air Products…and there aren’t.  Perhaps one day they might make the cut, but for now, their standard convention is to choose a shape (user preference…you’re the one it’s gotta make sense to) and call it out by name.  It might look something like this:

From top left, and then down: Automatic Drain Filter Separator, Oil Removal Filter, Pressure Regulator, and Super Air Knife

Oh, and if you’ve ever got any questions about your compressed air system that you think looking at a drawing together could help us solve, you can send that drawing to us at techelp@exair.com, and one of us will be happy to help.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Advantages of Thermal Mass or Thermal Dispersion Flow Measurement

EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meter offers an easy way to measure, monitor and record compressed air consumption. The Digital display shows the current amount of compressed air flow, allowing for tracking to identify costly leaks and/or inefficient air users.

dfm

How exactly does the Digital Flow Meter work?  The unit falls under the category of Thermal Mass or Thermal Dispersion type flow meters.  Below shows the backside of a unit.

IMG_7387

Thermal mass flow meters have the advantage of using a simple method of measuring flow without causing a significant pressure drop. The EXAIR units have (2) probes that are inserted through the pipe wall and into the air flow.  Each of the probes has a resistance temperature detector (RTD.) One of the probes measures the temperature of the air flow.  The other probe is heated to maintain a preset temperature difference from the temperature measured by the first probe.  The faster the air flow, the more heat that is required to keep the second probe at the prescribed temperature.  From Heat Transfer principles, the heat energy input required to maintain the preset temperature is based on the mass velocity of the air.  Using basic physical properties for compressed air, the volumetric rate can be determined (SCFM), and displayed.

It is important to note that the compressed air should be filtered to remove oils, and dried to remove water, as these liquids have different physical properties from air, and will cause erroneous readings.

Advantages

  • Easy to install – No cutting or welding required
  • Summing Remote Display and Data Logger available
  • Sensitive at low flows
  • Rugged, reliable and no moving parts
  • No calibration or set-up required
  • Models from 1/2″ to 4″ schedule 40 iron pipe in stock
  • Short lead time for sizes up to 6″ Schedule 40 iron pipe
  • Available for size 3/4″ to 4″ copper pipe
  • New Wireless Capability

If you have any questions about the Digital Flow Meter 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

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A Review of Centrifugal Air Compressors

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, sliding vane and rotary-scroll air compressors. You can click on the links above to check those out. Today, we will examine centrifugal air compressors.

The types of compressors that we have looked at to date have been of the Positive Displacement type.  For this type, an amount of air is drawn in and trapped in the compression area, and the volume in which it is held is mechanically reduced, resulting is rise in pressure as it approaches the discharge point.

types of compressors

The centrifugal air compressors fall under the Dynamic type. A dynamic compressor operates through the principle that a continuous flow of air has its velocity raised in an impeller rotating at a relatively high speed (can exceed 50,000 rpm.) The air has an increase in its kinetic energy (due to the rise in velocity) and then the kinetic energy is transformed to pressure energy in a diffuser and/or a volute chamber. The volute is a curved funnel that increases in area as it approaches the discharge port. The volute converts the kinetic energy into pressure by reducing speed while increasing pressure. About one half of the energy is developed in the impeller and the other half in the diffuser and volute.

Centrifugal Compressor
Centrifugal Compressor Components

The most common centrifugal air compressor has two to four stages to generate pressures of 100 to 150 PSIG.  A water cooled inter-cooler and separator between each stage removes condensation and cools the air prior to entering the next stage.

Some advantages of the Centrifugal Air Compressor-

  • Comes completely packaged fort plant air up to 1500 hp
  • As size increases, relative initial costs decrease
  • Provides lubricant-free air
  • No special foundation required

A few disadvantages-

  • Higher initial investment costs
  • Has specialized maintenance requirements
  • Requires unloading for operation at reduced operational capacities

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 air compressors 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

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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.

Two_moving_spirals_scroll_pump
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

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Rotary Scroll GIF:  used from of Public Domain

Oil Removal Filters – Keeping Compressed Air Clean

Compressed air filters help to keep the air clean and condensate free to protect equipment from dust, dirt, pipe scale, oil and water. Even though the compressed air system will typically have a main dryer, additional treatment is often necessary. For this discussion, we will focus on the oil removal process and filter type.

After the compressed air has passed through a particulate filter, the dirt, dust and water droplets have been removed.  Oil that is present is much smaller in size, and mostly passes though the particulate filter.  The installation of a coalescing filter will provide for the removal of the majority of the fine oil aerosols that remain. The coalescing filter works differently than the particulate filters. The compressed air flows from inside to outside through the coalescing filter media. The term ‘coalesce’ means to ‘come together’ or ‘form one mass.’  The process of coalescing filtration is a continuous process where the small aerosols of oil come in contact with fibers of the filter media. As other aerosols are collected, they will join up and ‘come together’ and grow to become an oil droplet, on the downstream or outside surface of the media.  Gravity will then cause the droplet to drain away and fall off the filter element.

9005
Example of a 0.03 Micron Coalescing Oil Removal Filter

Some important information to keep in mind –

  • Change the filter regularly, not just when the differential pressures exceeds recommended limits, typically 5 PSI
  • Coalescing filters will remove solids too, at a higher capture rate due to the fine level of filtration, using a pre-filter for solids will extend the life
  • Oil free compressors do not provide oil free air, as the atmospheric air drawn in for compression contains oil vapors that will cool and condense in the compressed air system.

If you would like to talk about oil removal filters 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

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