Air Compressor | Working and Types | Uses of Compressed Air

By | July 14, 2018

What is an Air compressor?

An air compressor is a device that converts power (generally electric) into pressure energy of compressed air. An air compressor is generally coupled with a storage tank, which is used to store compressed air.

Here might be a question arising in your mind.

What will happen if a compressed air storage tank gets overfilled? Would it burst?

The answer is no, it wouldn’t burst, if all the safety interlocks are working.

Now a question could arise in your mind, what are the safety interlocks associated with the air compressors.

Don’t worry we are here with an answer.

The safety interlocks used in modern compressors are the sophisticated sensors, which monitor the pressure of air in the compressor. If the pressure exceeds a specified limit the compressor stops working immediately.

Here could be a question in your mind.

What if by any reason the pressure sensor stopped working?

In case of pressure sensor failure, the pressure relief valve works.

What is a pressure relief valve?

Pressure relief valve
Pressure Relief Valve

A Pressure relief valve is a mechanical device that is used as a safety device in air compressors. Pressure relief valve are manually preset on a particular threshold pressure. If this pressure reaches anyhow in the compressed air storage vessel, the pressure relief valve operates and releases the excess air from the vessel. After achieving a safe pressure, it again closes and stops air outflow.

Compressed air is not only used to inflate our car tyres. There are several other uses of compressed air.

Uses of Compressed air

Compressed air is used in following applications

  • Pneumatics, the use of pressurized gases to do work
  • Pneumatic post, using capsules to move paper and small goods through tubes.
  • Air tools
  • HVAC control systems
  • Vehicle propulsion
  • Energy storage
  • Air brakes, including:
  • Railway braking systems
  • Road vehicle braking systems
  • Underwater diving, for breathing and to inflate buoyancy devices
  • Refrigeration using a vortex tube
  • Air-start systems in engines
  • Ammunition propulsion
  • Air guns
  • Airsoft equipment
  • Paintball equipment
  • Cleaning dust and small debris in tiny spaces
  • Sandblasting in machine shops
  • Injection molding
  • Food and beverage capping and fermentation

Types of air compressors

Reciprocating Compressor

Reciprocating Air Compressor
Reciprocating Air Compressor

A reciprocating compressor or piston compressor is a positive-displacement compressor that uses pistons driven by a crankshaft to deliver gases at high pressure.

Reciprocating Compressor types

  • Single-Stage Reciprocating Compressor
  • Two-Stage Reciprocating Compressor

Rotary-screw compressor

Rotary-screw compressor
Rotary-screw compressor

A rotary-screw compressor is a type of gas compressor that uses a rotary-type positive-displacement mechanism. They are commonly used to replace piston compressors where large volumes of high-pressure air are needed, either for large industrial applications or to operate high-power air tools such as jackhammers.

Rotary Vane Compressor

Rotary Vane Compressor
Rotary Vane Compressor

A rotary vane compressor is a positive-displacement compressor that consists of vanes mounted to a rotor that rotates inside of a cavity. In some cases these vanes can have variable length and/or be tensioned to maintain contact with the walls as the pump rotates.

Scroll Compressor

A scroll compressor (also called spiral compressor, scroll pump and scroll vacuum pump) is a device for compressing air or refrigerant. It is used in air conditioning equipment, as an automobile supercharger (where it is known as a scroll-type supercharger) and as a vacuum pump.

Root Type compressor

Roots Air Compressor
Roots Air Compressor

The Roots type blower is a positive displacement lobe pump which operates by pumping a fluid with a pair of meshing lobes not unlike a set of stretched gears. Fluid is trapped in pockets surrounding the lobes and carried from the intake side to the exhaust.

Image sources:

Pressure relief valve: Attribution: By Mbeychok – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Reciprocating air compressor: Attribution: By No machine-readable author provided. Yyy assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5,

Screw compressor: Attribution: By Airpol PPS – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Vane compressor: Attribution: Jonasz at Polish Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Roots air compressor: Attribution: By Graphic: Inductiveload Animation MichaelFrey [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

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