For vehicles, industrial settings, and even home appliances, vacuum pumps and air compressors are common apparatuses that manipulate gases for specific functionalities. Despite seeming similar in their implementation and operation, both devices are quite different in their varying uses. With vacuum pumps and air compressors serving well for the operation of vehicle brakes, air conditioners, gas station pumps, and other common day-to-day applications and devices, understanding the differences between the two can be very useful.
True to its name, a vacuum pump is a mechanical apparatus that creates a vacuum within an environment. This is often used to remove gases and air from a system, allowing for liquids to safely be transported. Additionally, certain vacuum pumps may also be used for the transportation of gases as well. With their capabilities, vacuum pumps may be found in a variety of industrial, private, and commercial settings to assist in the operation of aircraft, automobiles, irrigation, washing machines, and much more. As a rule of thumb, if there is a liquid being moved from one location to the other through the use of machinery, there is most likely a vacuum pump being used.
In order to efficiently remove gases from a system for liquid transportation, the vacuum pump creates high and low spaces of pressure within an environment. As such, gases will naturally move towards the area of lower pressure, thus resulting in a vacuum. To carry out this procedure, several types of pumps may be used. With an entrapment pump, refrigeration is used to lower the temperature of a given area, resulting in the formation of condensation that can be removed. With a diaphragm pump, mechanical diaphragms are moved within the confined space to directly manipulate pressure, and such pumps are very useful for industrial applications. With a momentum transfer pump, low-pressure regions are created through the use of a rotational device, causing gases to move from the inlet to the outlet. Lastly, the positive displacement pump is another common form of vacuum pump that uses cavities to create suction.
With an air compressor, on the other hand, air is converted into power through various methods. With a piston compressor, similar to those seen within automobiles and light aircraft, air is pumped into a cylinder chamber until sufficient pressure builds. Then, the air pressure can remain inside of the chamber until it is needed for a specific action. With a screw compressor, also known as a revolving screw pump, helical straws draw a large amount of air into a chamber. As such, screw compressors are very useful for larger industrial applications such as driving high-power air tools. Last but not least, the centrifugal compressor is one in which a rotating impeller is used to generate a discharge of pressurized air. With a large capacity and clean operation, the centrifugal compressor is very useful for a number of applications.
Altogether, vacuum pumps and air compressors may provide similar seeming operations, though are often used in varying applications due to their individual capabilities. With a vacuum pump, there is no storage capacity needed, and vacuum strength is high. Additionally, the power usage of vacuum pumps is much lower than an air compressor, meaning that it can be more efficient. Meanwhile, air compressors have larger capacities, and they can present larger flow rates depending on their volume reduction capabilities.
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