Compressed air is a type of air that undergoes extreme pressure. It has the same composition as the air that we breathe, except that it is kept under pressure and smaller in size. The molecules of compressed air take up less space than the normal air. Compressed air pressure is lower than the atmospheric pressure. Nonetheless, both have 78% nitrogen, 20% – 21% oxygen, and 1% – 2% water vapour, carbon dioxide, and other gases in their composition. Compressing the air just literally means that the air is compressed and the amount of space the molecules occupy decreases. The composition does not change.
How is air compressed?
Most compressed air suppliers follow two steps in compressing the air.
- The air is trapped in a cylindrical container or tank.
- A piston or other air compressor in the tank acts as the force that compresses down the air. The space in the container becomes smaller, which forces the air molecules to get tightly packed together.
Uses of compressed air
Many applications require compressed air. It is used in two ways: as an energy source and as a blowing or active air.
- The energy air is mainly used for the storage and transmission of energy to do mechanical work. It is mostly applied for pneumatic production equipment, air operated lathe chucks, conveying components during production, and power pressure clean parts.
- Contrary to energy air, active or blowing air is utilized as an active part of a process. The air contacts with the product directly. Therefore, it is a must that it maintains its quality. Active air is mainly used for various industrial applications like the chemical, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, aeration and agitation, semi-conductor and electronics, and medical industry.
You may not notice, but compressed air is used in wide applications around us. For example, roller coasters are powered by compressed air too. The air powers the brakes, gates, and other critical features of the roller coaster or other rides. Compressed air is also used to inflate vehicle wheels, but even the main production of the tires and the fabric on the seats of a car need compressed air.
The Safety of Compressed Air
Compressed air is safe, clean, and efficient. There are usually no other harmful by-products that come with or from it. It cannot be combusted; thus, it does not promote pollution.
However, all things can be dangerous if not handled properly. Like compressed air, it can also cause hazards when it is not used properly and efficiently. Sometimes, it can explode, but this rarely happens. It only happens when the operators handle the tank poorly and do not drain the water that may accumulate inside the tank. This water can cause corrosion, which, in turn, causes the tank to explode.
Therefore, compressed air supplies must always ensure that the tanks or containers are maintained properly and checked regularly.
Why is compressed air important?
Based on what is discussed above, compressed air is crucial to many applications. It may not be in high demand as electricity and petroleum gas; it is still fundamental to power the modern world’s different processes. It is a sign of our civilization and innovation. In the current global energy industry, compressed air accounts for about 10% of it. If used properly, compressed air is always safe and efficient.