A gas compressor is a mechanical device that increases the pressure of a gas by reducing its volume. Compression of a gas naturally increases its temperature. When the gas is air, the machine is called an air compressor.

Compressors are similar to pumps: both increase the pressure on a fluid and both can transport the fluid through a pipe. As gases are compressible, the compressor also reduces the volume of a gas. Liquids are relatively incompressible, so the main action of a pump is to transport liquids.

Centrifugal compressors

Centrifugal compressors use a vaned rotating disk or impeller in a shaped housing to force the gas to the rim of the impeller, increasing the velocity of the gas. A diffuser (divergent duct) section converts the velocity energy to pressure energy. They are primarily used for continuous, stationary service in industries such as oil refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants and natural gas processing plants. Their application can be from 100 hp (75 kW) to thousands of horsepower. With multiple staging, they can achieve extremely high output pressures greater than 10,000 psi (69 MPa)

Many large snow-making operations (like a ski resort) use this type of compressor. They are also used in internal combustion engines as superchargers and turbochargers. Centrifugal compressors are used in small gas turbine engines or as the final compression stage of medium-sized gas turbines.

EDiagonal or mixed-flow compressors

Diagonal or mixed-flow compressors are similar to centrifugal compressors, but have a radial and axial velocity component at the exit from the rotor. The diffuser is often used to turn diagonal flow to the axial direction. The diagonal compressor has a lower diameter diffuser than the equivalent centrifugal compressor.

Axial-flow compressors

Axial-flow compressors use a series of fan-like rotating rotor blades to progressively compress the gasflow. Stationary stator vanes, located downstream of each rotor, redirect the flow onto the next set of rotor blades. The area of the gas passage diminishes through the compressor to maintain a roughly constant axial Mach number. Axial-flow compressors are normally used in high flow applications, such as medium to large gas turbine engines. They are almost always multi-staged. Beyond about 4:1 design pressure ratio, variable geometry is often used to improve operation.

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