Stages of air treatment
Compressed air requires filtration and drying before it leaves for pneumatic components, atmospheric air carries many particles of debris and moisture that unless filtered out can block valves or cause increased wear. Compressors usually filter air before it’s compressed, this is mainly to remove relatively large particles which could damage the compressor. A fine grade filter used after it is compressed helps filter the small particles which could clog or damage the pneumatic components that are used in pneumatic system set ups.
Before air can be used the excess moisture has to be removed, where well dried air isn’t a requirement all that may be needed is a basic intercooler followed by a separator unit; this is where the condensed water collects and is drained off.
The dew point can be lowered even further by cooling the air with a refrigeration unit which cools the air even further to around 0°C helping more moisture collect in the separator tank. This cold air is then routed through a separate section of the initial heat exchanger to help cool the warm air which is flowing through from the compressor.
This system of drying is suitable for most systems as air is dried out well.
Where completely dry air is a necessity then a chemical dryer should be used, the chemicals can remove moisture in two ways.
1) A chemical agent called a desiccant is used, this chemical agent collects water vapour and holds it while it eventually turns itself into a liquid once so much vapour has been collected and runs to the bottom of the unit where it is drained off. This chemical agent needs to be replaced quite regularly.
2) Within an absorption dryer a material called silicone dioxide or copper sulphate is used, this process works by attracting moisture to the sharp edges of these granular materials. Once these materials become saturated they are dried by passing heat through them, this process can’t be carried out while it is still drying incoming air so they are usually set up with 2 of these moisture collectors which can be swapped over instantly, this allows one collector to collect the moisture while the remaining collector is left to dry itself out.
Relative Humidity = Mass of water vapour present X 100
Mass of water needed to saturate it