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What Is a Compressor Air Dryer?

Amy Rodriguez
Amy Rodriguez

A compressor air dryer is a machine that removes water and contaminants from previously compressed air systems. This machine is part of a large air compression system which is commonly found in gas manufacturing facilities. Two main filtration processes can be used in a compressor air dryer, including refrigeration and desiccant adsorption. As a result, the final air output can be used to create clean gasses, from helium to pure oxygen.

Refrigeration processes manipulate the internal machine dew point to remove water and contaminants from the compressed gas. The compressor air dryer has a cooling mechanism within its assembly to bring the internal air temperature down so that the dew point increases. As a result of the higher dew point, water and other contaminants condense out of the compressed gas. The machine effectively disposes of the condensate and allows the clean compressed air to continue through the manufacturing process.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Desiccant compressor air dryer processes use a water vapor adsorption material, such as activated alumina or silica gel, to remove the air's contaminants. Wet, compressed air enters a tank that has a desiccant material; the air naturally loses its water and contaminants as the desiccant draws it away from the surrounding molecules. The lighter and drier compressed air rises away from the adsorption material and is allowed to move on to further manufacturing processes.

A drawback to desiccant use is the need to dry the adsorption material between machine cycles. The desiccant material can only hold a certain amount of water and contaminants before it is saturated. Businesses must assemble a regeneration tank to allow the desiccant to evaporate its water vapor before another machine cycle.

Another main benefit to combining an industrial compressor with a compressor air dryer is the removal of oil droplets within the air mass. The initial air compressor normally uses an oil lubricated motor to draw outside air into the machine for compression. Tiny oil droplets can seep into the compressed air from the motor, which adds another contaminant into the air supply. The compressor air dryer allows the water vapor to be pulled from the gas molecules, effectively drawing the oil droplets out as well.

Since small amounts of oil may be present in the water condensate, industrial companies must dispose of the contaminants in an environmentally safe process. The water cannot be simply discarded into a water drain; many companies use separator machines to pull the oil from the condensate before disposal. This separator machine would normally be installed directly after the compressor air dryer.

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