5.5 Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Compressed Air
Compressed air is what makes our world go around here at Vert, but that in itself doesn’t make us unique. UK industry uses 10TWh of electricity annually to compress air, equivalent to the yearly output of almost 1.5 major power stations.
The original air compressor was the human lung, which obviously remains in wide use today. But healthy lungs can only produce 0.02 to 0.08 bar of air pressure – not too bad if you’re trying to stoke a campfire, but hardly adequate for metalworking tasks.
A new type of air compressor, the bellows, came along in 1500 BC producing a concentrated blast of air ideal for achieving higher-temperature fires. Years later in 1776, John Wilkinson designed a blasting machine that became the archetype for later mechanical air compressors.
Industrial use of piped compressed air for power transmission was developed in the mid-19th century, and as innovations kept improving upon the process, more and more ways were found to utilise the technology.
We’re extremely proud of our patented Conical Rotary Compressor (CRC) technology, which we are sure will earn a place of notoriety in the imposing history of compressed air. And so, we thought we’d share with you a few interesting facts about air compression:
1. How much, you say?
Almost all industrial businesses use compressed air – according to the Carbon Trust, more than 10% of electricity supplied to UK industry is used to compress air. This varies between sectors, and in some cases can be as much as 30% of total site electricity usage.
The top five industries using compressed air are: aircraft manufacturing; cement; ceramics; chemicals, including pharmaceuticals; and electronics.
2. Frightening, or exciting?
Thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightening bolt. As lightening connects to the ground from the clouds, a second stroke of lightening returns from the ground to the clouds, following the same channel as the first strike.
The heat from the electricity of this return stroke raises the temperature of the surrounding air to around 27,000 C. The heated air is compressed, raising the air from 10 to 100 times the normal atmospheric pressure. This then explodes outward creating a loud, booming burst of noise.
3. Save it up…
Compressed-air energy storage (CAES) is a way to hold on to energy generated at one time for use at another time by using compressed air.
At utility scale, energy generated during periods of low demand can be released to meet higher-demand peak load periods. This is particularly valuable in the age of intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, with CAES systems helping to ensure that the power stays on 24/7.
4. Breathing easy
Compressed air is used as a breathing gas by underwater divers. It may be carried by the diver in a high-pressure diving cylinder, or supplied from the surface at lower pressure through an airline.
Other professions also require compressed air stored away in safety tanks: underwater crime scene investigators, underwater welders, submarine workers and marine contractors all rely on this technology. Up on terra firma, firefighters need clean filtered air when inside smoky or burning buildings.
5. Sorry – I didn’t catch that…
According to the charity Action on Hearing Loss, a level of 85 on the decibel (dB) scale is the threshold at which your hearing can become damaged over time.
That’s about the level of noise made by a food blender. Heavy traffic comes in at 88dB, a pneumatic drill measures at 91dB, a live gig comes in at 110dB and topping the scale is an aeroplane at take-off, measuring 130dB.
Air compressors these days tend to have a decibel rating between 70dB and 90dB. The safe exposure time for up to 85dB is eight hours a day, but as sound intensity doubles with every increase of 3dB, the safe exposure time halves. So, for example, the safe exposure time to 88dB is four hours.
5.5. We couldn’t resist it…..
The Vert A150 compressor comes in at 62dBA. We’re so proud of it, we couldn’t resist mentioning it!