People of Interest: Robert Boyle – 1627 to 1691

Being in the compressed air industry for over 35 years, you come across many interesting people from the past that have created laws that we are still using today.   Robert Boyle is one of those people.  He was born on January 25, 1627 in Lismore Castle in Ireland.  He published the book “The Sceptical Chymist” in 1661, and many considered his work to be the foundation of modern chemistry.  He dabbled in many areas of study, but with a young university student, Robert Hooke, they found Boyle’s Law.

 The experiment was performed using a ‘J’ shaped glass tube sealed on the shorter leg, and open to atmosphere on the longer leg.  Mercury was poured into the tube, such that the level was equal on each side. The volume of the trapped air was noted. Additional mercury was poured into the tube, and it was observed that the mercury did not stay level, and measurements of the heights of each tube leg were recorded.  The height difference of the mercury is effectively a measure of the pressure of the trapped air.  Through the experiment and the data, Boyle discovered a relationship between the volume and the pressure of air.  The data as published, is shown below.

Boyle noticed the pressure times the volume of air for the initial condition equaled the pressure times the volume at any other mercury height.  So, the pressure is proportional to the inverse of the volume, Equation 1.

Equation 1: P ∝ 1/V

Or P * V = k (a constant)

For comparing the same substance under two different sets of conditions, Boyle’s law can be expressed as Equation 2.

Equation 2:  P1 * V1 = P2 * V2

Equation 2 looks very familiar.  One of Boyle’s most famous discoveries was to become the first of the gas laws, relating the pressure of a gas to its volume. Combining Boyle’s Law with Charles’s Law, Gay-Lussac’s Law, and Avogadro’s Law; you will have the basis and creation of the ideal gas law;

Equation 3:   P * V = n * R * T

which includes the major factors that affect a gas; temperature, pressure, volume, the amount of the gas, and the ideal gas constant.

Robert Boyle passed away on December 31st, 1691, and from his work, EXAIR uses the pressure and volume of compressed air for our Intelligent Compressed Air® Products to make them efficient, safe, and effective.  If you would like to speak more about how EXAIR can benefit your pneumatic system, one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

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

Robert Boyle image courtesy of Skara KommunCreative Commons License

How-To Size Receiver Tanks and Why Use Them in Your Compressed Air System

Receiver Tank

My colleague, Lee Evans, wrote a blog about calculating the size of primary receiver tanks within a compressed air system.  (You can read it here: Receiver Tank Principle and Calculations).  I would like to expand a bit more about secondary receiver tanks.  They can be strategically placed throughout the plant to improve the operation of your compressed air system.  The primary receiver tanks help to protect the supply side when demands are high, and the secondary receiver tanks help pneumatic systems on the demand side for optimum performance.

Circuit Board

I like to compare the pneumatic system to an electrical system.  The receiver tanks are like capacitors.  They store energy produced by an air compressor like a capacitor stores energy from an electrical source.  If you have ever seen an electrical circuit board, you notice many capacitors with different sizes throughout the circuit board (reference photo above).  The reason for this is to have a ready source of energy to increase efficiency and speeds with the ebbs and flows of electrical signals.  The same can be said for a pneumatic system with secondary receiver tanks.

To tie this into the compressed air system, if you have an area that requires a high volume of compressed air intermittently, a secondary receiver tank would benefit this type of pneumatic setup.  With valves, cylinders, actuators, and pneumatic controls which turn on and off, it is important to have a ready source of stored “energy” nearby.

For calculating a minimum volume size for your secondary receiver tank, we can use Equation 1 below.  It is the same for sizing a primary receiver tank, but the scalars are slightly different.  The supply line to this tank will typically come from a header pipe that supplies the entire facility.  Generally, it is smaller in diameter; so, we have to look at the air supply that it can feed into the tank.  For example, a 1” NPT Schedule 40 Pipe at 100 PSIG can supply a maximum of 150 SCFM of air flow.  This value is used for Cap below.  C is the largest air demand for the machine or targeted area that will be using the tank.  If the C value is less than the Cap value, then a secondary tank is not needed.  If the Cap is below the C value, then we can calculate the smallest tank volume that would be needed.  The other value in the equation is the minimum tank pressure.  In most cases, a regulator is used to set the air pressure for the machine or area.  If the specification is 80 PSIG, then you would use this value as P2P1 is the header pressure that will be coming into the secondary tank.  With this collection of information, you can use Equation 1 to calculate the minimum tank volume.  So, any receiver tank with a larger volume would work as a secondary receiver tank.

Equation 1:

V = T * (C – Cap) * (Pa) / (P1-P2)

Where:

V – Volume of receiver tank (cubic feet)

T – Time interval (minutes)

C – Air demand for system (cubic feet per minute)

Cap – Supply value of inlet pipe (cubic feet per minute)

Pa – Absolute atmospheric pressure (PSIA)

P1 – Header Pressure (PSIG)

P2 – Regulated Pressure (PSIG)

If you find that your pneumatic devices are lacking in performance because the air pressure seems to drop during operation, you may need to add a secondary receiver to that system.  EXAIR stocks 60 Gallon tanks, model 9500-60, to add to those specific areas.  If you have any questions about using a receiver tank in your application, primary or secondary, you can contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We can restore your efficiency and speed back into your applications.

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

Photo: Circuit Board courtesy from T_Tide under Pixabay License

Robert Boyle the Father of Chemistry and Boyles Law

Robert Boyle, one of the founding fathers of modern chemistry and a man who changed the very way we look at scientific research. From the Scientific Method to the very laws that govern gasses, Robert Boyle was able to change the very way we look at life and solve our problems. One could say that Robert Boyle didn’t really have what you would call a humble beginning; he was born in January 1627 to the 1st Earl of Cork Richard Boyle and his wife Catherine Fenton at Lismore Castle in Ireland. When he was only 8 years of age, he was sent off to Eton College in order to study under a private tutor. In 1641 Robert would spend the winter in Florence Italy studying the “paradoxes of the great star-gazer” Galileo Galilei.

Robert Boyle

Starting in mid-1644 Robert would make his residence in Dorset England were he conducted many experiments and from then devote his life to research. In 1654, Boyle would move to Oxford from Ireland in order to further pursue his studies in chemistry. It was here in 1657 that he would read about Otto von Guericke’s air pump, and would set out to improve the system along with Robert Hooke. In 1659 the “Pneumatic Engine” would be completed and he began a series of experiments on the properties of air. He would further go on to coin the term factitious airs which is a term used to describe synthetic gases after isolating what is now understood to be hydrogen.

Though he was primarily interested in chemistry, one of Boyle’s most famous discovery was what is now known as the first of the gas laws, rightfully named Boyles’s Law.  Boyle’s Law defines the relationship between pressure and volume in a closed area given the mass of an ideal gas. Boyle and his assistant Robert Hooke used a closed J-Shaped tube and poured mercury in from the open side, forcing the air on the other side to contract under the pressure. After repeating this using several different amounts of mercury Boyle deducted that the pressure of a gas is inversely proportional to the volume occupied by it.

Boyle’s Law

In 1669 his health, although which was never very good, began to fail seriously and he withdrew from the public. In his later days he would propose some important chemical investigations which he wanted to leave as a sort of legacy for those who would were also “Disciples of the Art”, essentially future chemists. On the winters day on December 31, 1691 Robert Boyle took his final breath. In his will Robert Boyle left a series of lectures known as the Boyle Lectures the talked about the relationship between Christianity and today’s science.  

Here at EXAIR we use Boyle’s Law everyday as nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen (the three main elements that make up air) are all considered ideal gas. This means that all of our products are governed by the relationship between pressure and volume.

If you have questions about any of our quiet EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Robert Boyle image courtesy of Skara KommunCreative 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
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IMGP6394 image courtesy of Matt Buck, Creative Commons License