AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

What Is a Centrifugal Compressor and How Does It Work?

Centrifugal compressors are considered dynamic compressors that feature a radial design. Unlike variations that work at a constant flow, centrifugal compressors work with a constant pressure. Additionally, any fluctuations in the external conditions of their operating environment can have a major effect on their performance. To better understand these apparatuses, we will outline the ins and outs of centrifugal compressors.

Using different stages to compress and cool air, centrifugal compressors convert energy while air flows throughout the unit. In particular, these units compress a specific vapor or gas by utilizing radial acceleration, along with an impeller and a surrounding case. Put simply, centrifugal compressors transform the velocity and kinetic energy in the diffuser into pressure energy.

Within the compressor, there is a rotating impeller equipped with radial blades. The center of the impeller receives the air that is pushed by the centrifugal force toward the center. The movement will increase the pressure and generate kinetic energy as a result. Once the energy makes its way through a volute and a diffuser, it is converted into pressure.

Essentially, the centrifugal compressor increases the air’s velocity, and the rotation of the impeller converts the kinetic energy into the desired form of pressure. Next, after the air enters the diffuser section, air flow velocity decreases. Meanwhile, the diffuser is static or fixed which helps air exit the impeller and excess moisture is removed between compression stages. At this time, air is cooled during each stage which increases its quality and efficiency.

The varying stages cause pressure to increase to the desired level; thus, centrifugal compressors find use in different industrial plants for their specific requirements. Keep in mind that designers can arrange a different number of stages to achieve a higher pressure. In general, most centrifugal compressors contain 2 to 4 stages to generate pressures up to 150 PSIG. Between stages, the air must be cooled down in an intercooler.

Different Parts of Centrifugal Compressors

Centrifugal compressors are made up of four main parts: an impeller, collector, inlet, and diffuser. The inlet is coupled with a casing to protect the sensitive components of the compressor. This case is typically made of cast iron or steel, is available in horizontally split or vertically split versions, and has bearings that provide the rotor with axial and radial support. Furthermore, the casing contains nozzles with inlets and discharge flow connections that direct flow in and out of the compressor.

The impellers, on the other hand, are mounted on a shaft. This unit serves as the compressor rotor and is designed to provide the velocity. Moreover, blades are attached to the rotating disc and are positioned based on the desired output. The diffuser is a tiny passage between adjacent diaphragms that receives the gas extracted by the impeller. Moreover, the gas flow turns 180 degrees and is directed to the next impeller. Please note that the two walls of the diffuser are used to form a radial channel, allowing the decrease in the gas’ velocity and the conversion of dynamic pressure into static pressure.

Also called a scroll or volute, the collector is the last major part of a centrifugal compressor. It is often equipped with valves for the means of controlling the compressor, and its main task is to collect the gas at the end of the operating phase. Finally, the collector delivers the collected item to the discharge flange.

Centrifugal Compressor Advantages & Applications

Centrifugal compressors offer a wide range of advantages, one of which revolves around its design. The design enables a large amount of air to be generated in a small package. Another advantage is that centrifugal compressors are ideal high capacity and high horsepower applications. As such, they find use in the food processing industry, among other sectors.


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