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Aeronautics research department puts compressed air to the test

Reavell : 17 August, 2012  (Application Story)
The aeronautics department at the Imperial College of London carries out a range of testing and research projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences' Research Council, the EU and a variety of industrial and government bodies.
Aeronautics research department puts compressed air to the test

Its state-of-the-art facility performs research on aerodynamics and aerostructures with the help of complex, sensitive technologies such as a supersonic wind tunnel and an autoclave.

The highly-technical equipment requires large volumes of high-pressure compressed air, up to 28bar, to perform correctly and, to help meet this requirement, the Imperial College London selected the Reavell 5236 compressor to provide on-demand air, with high reliability.

Reavell was initially approached by the college to provide a compressor that could offer high-reliability, yet still be cost-efficient to own and operate. Ian James from Imperial College London explains, “Our laboratory staff are not available to continually monitor the performance of the compressor during working hours and so we need the unit to operate, when it is needed, without intervention. Automatic switch on, and off is essential to the daily running of the research facility, ensuring the compressor is always ready when required. Reliability is also important in protecting long and complex research projects, as any disruption to the compressed air supply during testing can alter the end result. In addition, whilst one compressor unit is sufficient for our air demands, we need to have complete assurance that it will provide the durability and longevity required for constant use.  We simply cannot afford for the compressor to be out of action, as without it, we cannot carry out much of our research. The Reavell compressor has proven its performance under constant demand, enabling our staff to concentrate on their core duties without having to consider the availability of air.”

The university required a compressor with an oil filter and a water separator and dryer to ensure good quality air as, when performing complex research, any contamination could potentially undermine the end result.  Reavell’s 5236 was fitted with an oil adsorption filter that provides approximately 0.01pp residual oil carryover. Also fitted, is the dryer that provides a dew point of

Oil and water contamination can also affect the integrity of the component parts within the test equipment itself.   Clean, dry air protects the equipment from rusting; improving its longevity and reducing expensive repair costs. It also protects intricate components from any degradation that could lead to major problems in the overall build.

The compressor powers three key pieces of research equipment; the supersonic wind tunnel, an autoclave and the WASP rig that belongs to Chemical Engineering Department, all of which require substantial volumes of air during operation. To meet this demand the 5236 is equipped with 6 large air receiver, with total volume of 90m3

The compressor automatically comes online when the pressure drops to 350 psi, increasing pressure in the air receiver to 410psi, so that there is always sufficient free air delivery at 400 psi.

Super Sonic Wind Tunnel
The Reavell compressor powers the super sonic wind tunnel, which requires a vast amount of air to operate. The tunnel facilitates research on missiles and test spacecrafts.

Chem. Eng WASP Rig
The WASP facility simulates the type of conditions encountered in many offshore pipeline systems at a reasonably representative scale. For this facility the compressor is used to provide large air flowrates at relatively high pressures.  This means that many of the flow conditions encountered offshore can be closely simulated in a controlled environment.  Since, the fraction of gas, liquid and solid passing through pipeline system at any particular time varies with the combination of gas, oil, water and solid feeding into the system the flexibility of the Reavell compressor ensures that researchers and sponsoring companies can test a wide range of conditions.

The autoclave is used to cure components and composites under different test conditions. Compressed air is used to seal the oven doors, ensuring that no moisture or particulate matter interferes with the curing process.

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