What is a Compressed Air Booster?
Compressed air is extremely useful in industrial applications. However, it isn’t solely needed at a single bar/PSI pressure level. Instead, different air pressure levels are utilised, depending on the industrial application.
For example, PET bottle blowing and industrial cleaning applications require approximately 40-bar of air pressure. In comparison, air booster systems need to deliver upwards of 300-bar of high-pressure compressed air to perform laser cutting, or pressure testing.
What is a compressed air booster? It’s an additional unit, or system, added to an existing air compressor system to increase air pressure outputs. While an air compressor can typically deliver up to 15-bar of pressure starting with non-pressurised ambient air, going beyond this pressurisation level is not energy efficient.
Air boosters are designed to more cost-effectively increase, or boost, existing pressurised air to the necessary bar/PSI level. Therefore, whether 40 bar is required for stress testing purposes, or 300-bar is needed for gas handling or metallurgy, the air booster takes you the rest of the way.
The Need for Compressed Air Boosters
As the introduction indicated, what the compressed air is to be used for dictates the pressure level required. To make this simpler to understand, high-pressure applications are split into three category types: low, medium, and high.
Low, Medium, and High Air Pressure Levels
Low pressure is 15-bar and below. Most air compressor systems produce up to 15-bar with no additional equipment needed, so they fit into the low-pressure category.
Medium pressure is between 20-bar and 40-bar. Practical industrial applications at these enhanced pressure levels include power generation, PET blowing, industrial cleaning, and stress testing.
High pressure is 200-bar and above. Most needs for high-pressured air are in the 200 to 300-bar range, with some at 500-bar or even higher. For example, 300-bar pressure is required for metallurgy work, handling gas, and creating plastics. 300-bar is also useful when storing highly pressurised gas in high-pressure air cylinders for future use.
The Role of a Booster in Achieving Higher Pressure
Existing air compressor systems compress ambient air up to 15-bar. However, such systems are not cost-effective at higher pressure levels.
Air booster systems are designed to take compressed air and multiply its existing pressure level. Depending on the booster, this may be on a 2:1 or 5:1 ratio, or another basis. The inlet receives the already-pressurised air and then increases its pressure by compressing it. Then the outlet releases the air to the machinery requiring it, or into high-pressure storage cylinders.
Increasing the pressurisation level on already compressed air is a better approach instead of taking ambient air and compressing it to a higher pressure level. Therefore, a multi-step process via both an air compressor and an air booster is warranted, to achieve enough pressurisation for medium or high-air-pressure tasks.
How Does a Compressed Air Booster Work?
Booster compressors need to receive pressurised air and compress it further to achieve higher pressure levels. This is done via advanced piston technology and custom cylinders with a diameter ensuring that sufficient, consistently high air pressure levels are produced. This applies to compressed air, but most air boosters can also do the same with compressed gas (e.g., nitrogen).
There are single-stage and multi-stage pumps, depending on the model, to achieve the required air pressure. Also, in consideration of the industry and use case, both oil-free and oil-lubricated air boosters are available. For example, the food and beverage, and healthcare industries, typically require oil-free models to avoid subsequent contamination issues.
Types of Compressed Air Boosters
Different companies have various air boosters, depending on which markets they serve.
At the time of writing, Atlas Copco offers three air boosters, which we briefly discuss below:
LB10-40 Air & Nitrogen Booster
A single-stage air booster for both compressed air and nitrogen gas. It’s designed to serve medium-pressure category requirements, such as laser cutting, and industrial cleaning.
The allowable inlet pressure sits between 2 and 10 bar, with air pressurisation between 15 and 40 bar.
This model is oil-lubricated, air-cooled, and only uses one stage to compress the air. It operates continually, as needed.
LB 300 Booster
The Atlas Copco LB 300 Booster is a self-contained unit for further compressing nitrogen gas and compressed air. It also has a filtration system to remove both water and oil from the air supply.
It can pressurise up to 300-bar and produce over 8 litres of air per second.
LT Oil-lubricated High-Pressure Piston Compressor
This model is oil-lubricated and designed to produce up to 40-bar of pressure.
Different models are sold, including a two-stage, 2 cylinder model and a three-stage, 3 cylinder model. The former intakes filtered air and compress it to 30-bar, whereas the latter includes a third stage to reach 40-bar.
Benefits of Using Compressed Air Boosters
Here are some benefits of using compressed air boosters:
Reduced Energy Consumption: It is more energy efficient first to compress air using an air compressor up to a 15-bar pressure level and then use a specialised air booster to increase air pressure further to a higher level.
Less Impact on an Existing Air Compressor: Instead of pushing an air compressor system to the max, it’s possible to set it at a lower pressurisation output level and then increase this pressure level as needed, using a connected air booster.
Boost Air Pressure to Different Levels: Air boosters increase air pressure to different bar/PSI levels depending on what’s needed. This is changeable depending on the level required for the work order. This avoids over-pressurising air due to a lack of flexibility. To this end, air booster control systems are designed to be simple to operate.
Safer Air Boosters: Not pushing air compressors to the maximum and using pneumatically initiated boosters is overall safer for the operator.
The Practical Applications of Compressed Air Boosters
Air boosters are useful additions to air compressor setups to accommodate low-pressure systems. Rather than run an older air compressor at a higher pressure setting, a booster allows for lower initial pressure level outputs, and boosts compressed air from there. Even for newer compressors, this is more efficient.
Whether you need high or medium air pressure for different applications, such as within the shipbuilding, automotive, or mechanical engineering industries, air boosters are the most affordable way to create a steady supply of highly compressed air to the required level.
Most compressed air systems deliver a maximum of 15-bar of pressure, with the air compressors currently available offering between 2-bar and 15-bar. When requiring higher air pressure levels, adding an air booster is the best approach in many industrial settings.
Get in touch with our team at Anglian Compressors to discuss your high-pressure air requirements.