What is Laminar Flow and Turbulent Flow?

Super Air Knife

Fluid mechanics is the field that studies the properties of fluids in various states.  There are two areas, fluid statics and fluid dynamics.  Fluid dynamics studies the forces on a fluid, either as a liquid or a gas, during motion.  Osborne Reynolds, an Irish innovator, popularized this dynamic with a dimensionless number, Re. This number determines the state in which the fluid is moving; either laminar flow or turbulent flow.  Equation 1 shows the relationship between the inertial forces of the fluid as compared to the viscous forces.

Equation 1:  Re = V * Dh/u

Re – Reynolds Number (no dimensions)

V – Velocity (feet/sec or meters/sec)

Dh – hydraulic diameter (feet or meters)

u – Kinematic Viscosity (feet^2/sec or meter^2/sec)

The value of Re will mark the region in which the fluid (liquid or gas) is moving.  If the Reynolds number, Re, is below 2300, then it is considered to be laminar (streamline and predictable).  If Re is greater than 4000, then it is considered to be turbulent (chaotic and violent).  The area between these two numbers is the transitional area where you can have eddy currents and some non-linear velocities.  To better show the differences between each state, I have a picture below that shows water flowing from a drain pipe into a channel.  The water is loud and disorderly; traveling in different directions, even upstream.  With the high velocity of water coming out of the drain pipe, the inertial forces are greater than the viscosity of the water.  This indicates turbulent flow with a Reynolds number larger than 4000.  As the water flows into the mouth of the river after the channel, the waves transform from a disorderly mess into a more uniform stream.  This is the transitional region.  A bit further downstream, the stream becomes calm and quiet, flowing in the same direction.  This is laminar flow.  Air is also a fluid, and it will behave in a similar way depending on the Reynolds number.

Turbulent to Laminar Water

Why is this important to know?  In certain applications, one state may be better suited than the other.  For mixing, suspension and heat transfer; turbulent flows are better.  But, when it comes to effective blowing, lower pressure drops and reduced noise levels; laminar flows are better.  In many compressed air applications, the laminar region is the best method to generate a strong force efficiently and quietly.  EXAIR offers a large line of products, including the Super Air Knives and Super Air Nozzles that utilizes that laminar flow for compressed air applications.  If you would like to discuss further how laminar flows could benefit your process, an EXAIR Application Engineer will be happy to help you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

How a Centrifugal Compressor Works

Continuing our series on different types of air compressors, today’s blog will feature the centrifugal compressor.  The centrifugal compressor is classified as a dynamic compressor.  Dynamic compressors are designed to work with  a continuous flow of air that has its velocity increased by an impeller rotating at a very high speed.

The centrifugal compressor works by transforming the kinetic energy and velocity into pressure energy in the diffuser.  The air passes through the inlet guide vanes being drawn into the center of a rotating Impeller with radial blades and is then pushed outward from the center by centrifugal force. This radial movement of air results in a pressure rise and the generation of kinetic energy.  The kinetic energy is also converted into pressure by passing through the diffuser.

Centrifugal Pic 1
Sample Centrifugal Compressor

Multiple stages are required to raise the pressure to a sufficient level for typical industrial plant requirements.  Each stage takes up a part of the overall pressure rise of the compressor unit.  Depending on the pressure required for the application, a number of stages can be arranged in a series to achieve a higher pressure.

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

Centrifugal compressors are the near middle of the road regarding efficiency, their typical operating cost is 16 to 20 kW/100 CFM.  The most efficient compressor type is the double-acting reciprocating and costs 15 to 16 kW/100 SCFM and the least is the Sliding Vane which costs 21 to 23 kW/100 SCFM.

Advantages of the centrifugal air compressor:

  • Up to 1500 HP systems are available
  • Price per HP drops as system size increases
  • Supplies lubricant-free air
  • Special installation pads are not required for installation

Disadvantages of the centrifugal air compressor

  • Costs more Initially
  • Requires specialized maintenance
  • Due to high rotational speeds (can exceed 50,000 RPM) precision high speed bearings and vibration monitoring are required

EXAIR recommends contacting a reputable air compressor dealer in your area to discuss your volume and pressure requirements to determine the best size & type air compressor for your needs.

Regardless of the type of air compressor you have, EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products® can minimize your compressed air consumption, potentially reducing the size of compressor needed, reduce noise and still deliver powerful results!   If you would like to discuss highly efficient and quiet point of use compressed air products or any EXAIR product, we would enjoy hearing from you. 

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Image Courtesy of  the Compressed Air Challenge

Dirty Compressed Air Consequences Are Avoidable

I would like to discuss the importance of clean and dry filtered air.  This all comes from some discussions I have had with customers over my time here at EXAIR, as well as from my time in the machine tool industry. It is notable to state that we simply ask for clean/dry air to run through our products, not “instrument” or “process” air which is typically held at a different pressure, temperature, or volume and can be more expensive to generate. All of EXAIR’s products use general plant air and can be cleaned up with simple point of use filters.

Clean and dry compressed air is essential for ensuring a long and easy life of almost any compressed air product.   One product in particular that I have some data on is the EXAIR Line Vac.  The pictures below show the inside wall of a Stainless Steel Line Vac.  This unit was used in a harsh outdoor environment.   The compressor was not maintained and did not have any form of filtration on the lines feeding the Line Vac unit. The first picture shows where all the dirt and particulate were impacting the internal generator wall as it entered the air chamber.

Damaged Generator

The two dark grey marks are actually the impact points on the unit.   There is only one air inlet on the Line Vac, this means that the unit was taken apart during the two months and actually inspected then put back together and the generator was rotated slightly during this process.  These spots are similar to what sandblasting does to metal, just to illustrate how much particulate was in the air stream. Since the air has not yet reached its full velocity within the Line Vac, it has left only those visible surface blemishes.

As the air begins to exit the array of small generator holes it begins to rapidly increase in velocity while it is trying to expand to atmospheric conditions.  Because of this increased velocity, the wear the generator holes experience is greater and as seen below it is causing some extreme wear.

Worn Generator Holes

To give you an idea of what a new generator should look like is below. Here you can see uniform holes that go precisely through the generator.


To prevent a disaster like this from happening to your end-use compressed air products, all you need are some simple, low maintenance filters.   EXAIR offers dirt / water filter separators that will filter your compressed down to 5 micron particulate size.   The will catch the good majority of rust, water, and dirt within your compressed air system.   Then you can also install an oil removal filter which will filter all oils and particulate out of your compressed air system down to 0.03 micron particulate level.

Each of these units are great point of use filtration to keep any of your processes from experiencing what this Line Vac experienced.   If you have any questions about the quality of your compressed air or why you are seeing failures in product on your compressed air system, contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer

Video Blog: Changing Shims in Flat Super Air Nozzles

A brief video explaining just a few of the benefits to utilizing the EXAIR Flat Super Air Nozzles and how to change the shims which change the force and volume of flow out of the nozzle. Our shims and the adjustable air gap mean you can increase or decrease the volume of air flow and force without adjusting the inlet air pressure.


Brian Farno
Application Engineer