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Types Of Air Compressors

Updated on October 22, 2011

Air compressors are mechanical devices which convert the air into energy, this energy can then be used to run machinery and perform various functions.

Air compressors have many useful applications. The energy generated from these compressors is used to operate many mechanical equipments and power tools.

Most air compressors do not need a motor to work as they utilize the air, however some compressors do require a motor to convert the electrical energy into mechanical energy.

There are many different types of air compressors which come in various shapes and sizes, but broadly we divide them into two types:

  • Positive displacement compressors
  • Dynamic compressors.

A refrigerator compressor
A refrigerator compressor

Positive Displacement Compressors

The positive displacement compressors generate energy by reducing the space for the air trapped inside it.

The positive displacement compressors are the most commonly used compressors.

Not only are they common in industry they are popular at home and are widely used by the mechanics and woodworkers.

The positive displacement compressors are further divided into two types:

  • Reciprocating air compressors
  • Rotary screw air compressors

A Reciprocating Compressor
A Reciprocating Compressor

Reciprocating Air Compressor

The reciprocating air compressors are very commonly used. They are composed of a unit which comprises of a cylinder and a piston.

The piston is used to compress energy. Basically when the piston moves up and down the air stored inside the compressor gets compressed and converts into energy.

Based on this simple mechanism these compressors are capable of producing a large amount of energy which can be used for many purposes.

There are many other types of reciprocating air compressors which come in different unit sizes and shapes.

Depending on these factors, a reciprocating air compressor can be cooled with water or air in order to regulate a safe operating temperature and the efficiency of the compressor.

Many classifications also put these air compressors into a separate category of piston type compressors.

Rotary Screw Compressor
Rotary Screw Compressor
A Centrifugal Compressor
A Centrifugal Compressor

Rotary Screw Air Compressors

The rotary screw compressors are composed of two rotors which are turned together to form a mesh. The compressor works on the following mechanism:

When the rotors turn the gas stored in cylinder gets forced down into a cavity and gets pushed until it reaches a discharge port.

What happens is that one rotor generally called the male rotor drives the other rotor which is called the female rotor which induces the injection of oil into the cylinder which in turns forces the gas.

The oil in these compressors not only performs this function but also act as a lubricant, a coolant and as a seal.

However there is also a range of rotary screw compressors which are non lubricant i.e. without oil. In these compressors timing gears are used to drive the rotors and to manage the operating temperature.

Dynamic Air Compressors

The dynamic air compressors work on a completely different principle than the positive displacement compressors.

The dynamic air compressors use the phenomenon of velocity to generate energy. It happens by creating high speed energy through a rapidly moving piece.

This fast moving piece then propels the basic unit of the air compressor to generate power which is then used for mechanical purposes.

Although the dynamic air compressors are very useful they are not as common as the positive displacement compressors and their use is mostly restricted to various industries and is not used at homes.

Out of some other types of dynamic air compressors the most common is the centrifugal compressor.

Below mentioned are the details of the centrifugal compressor:

Centrifugal Compressors

The centrifugal air compressors have a rotating impeller on which it relies for the generation of energy. It works on the following principle:

The rotating blade of the compressor, which acts as the impeller, transfers energy from itself to the air.

The compressor uses the momentum produced by the fast moving rotating blade to generate a high pressure discharge.

The centrifugal air compressor rotates much faster and generates much more energy than other dynamic air compressors due to its extremely fast moving blade.

Since it produces immense amount of energy, this compressor is used for works that require a large amount of energy.

The centrifugal air compressors generate a continuous flow of energy because of which they are used for high capacity workloads.


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    • profile image

      Okoli amaechi samuel 

      7 years ago

      Thanks 4 making a great different.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A centrifugale compressor is a common compressor in turbo-chargers on any piston engine, driven by an exhaust turbine connected to the same shaft.

    • mindyjgirl profile image

      Mindy Bench 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      wow lots of information here, great hub with pictures. keep up the good work!


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