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How Does a Gas Spring Work?

Updated on May 14, 2010

Gas Spring Operating Principle

A gas spring, which also may be known as a gas strut, hydraulic damper, or lifting support, is a specialized type of spring that utilizes gas under compression to exert force, in an operation similar to that of a bicycle pump. A gas spring consists of a cylinder with a tight-fitting piston that slides back and forth inside a polished bore. The piston is used to compresses a gas present in the cylinder. Below the piston, a small amount of lubricating oil is used to lubricate the rod seal, and offer a small damping effect at the end of the piston rod extension.

Working of the gas springs is often compared with the working of mechanical coil springs. Mechanical coil springs store energy by straining the material comprising the spring, while the gas springs store energy by compressing the gas within the gas spring. When pressure is exerted on the piston, it compresses the gas, simulating a compressed mechanical spring. Consequently, when the pressure acting on the piston is released, the compressed gas returns the piston to its original position, similar to that of a released spring. Gas springs can also be considered as a mechanical battery that stores and releases energy by compressing and releasing a gas for a specific purpose. Though gas springs are widely used in automotive and marine applications, they can be used to effectively replace coil springs in many other applications.

Gas springs provide direct support for lifting, positioning, lowering, and counterbalancing weights. The most common use of a gas spring is as a support on a horizontally hinged door. Though the springs are widely used in various applications, the weight range supported by the springs may be few kilos or up to half a ton.

Gas springs are available in a number of materials, including stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum. In addition, the gas commonly used in gas springs is nitrogen. The neutral nature of nitrogen and its lack of reaction with the oil present in the gas spring cylinders, makes it ideal for the purpose. Furthermore, nitrogen is also easy to obtain and a cost effective as well.

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