What Are Centrifugal Compressors?
Centrifugal compressors are also referred to as radial compressors. These compressors belong to a special class of turbo machines that includes fans, pumps, blowers and compressors. These compressors have more than 5% density increase ratio. If the working fluid inside these compressors is air or nitrogen, a relative fluid velocity of 0.5 Mach and above is achievable. In contrast to commercial centrifugal compressors, fans and blowers have less than 5% density increase ratio and their fluid velocity is between 0.3 and 0.5 Mach.
Centrifugal compressors gain pressure by adding kinetic energy to the continuously moving fluid through an impeller. The kinetic energy is then converted to static pressure with the help of a diffuser that slows the speed of fluid inside the compressor.
The primary reasons for wide usage of centrifugal compressors are that they have fewer rubbing parts and are more energy efficient. Centrifugal compressors generate more power than similar sized positive displacement or reciprocating compressors. Centrifugal compressors are more suited for the jobs that require continuous air volumes over long periods of time. Centrifugal compressors, however, cannot achieve high pressures because of the fluid density limitations. In order to achieve higher fluid pressure, multistage centrifugal compressors are built.
Common applications of centrifugal compressors include ventilators, air cooling units, small aircraft gas turbines, air movers and other such equipment that require continuous air volume without any significant increase in the pressure. Multistage centrifugal compressors are able to achieve pressures of 8,500 – 10,500 PSI. An industry application of centrifugal compressors is the injection of natural gas back into the oil fields to increase oil production.
Centrifugal air compressors are simple to manufacture and their overall cost per stage is relatively low. It means that a centrifugal compressor can achieve the same pressure increase, as of a positive displacement compressor, with lower manufacturing cost. Multistage centrifugal compressors achieve high pressures through an increase in the coaxial radius which magnifies the pressure over short distance.
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