Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2022-07-12, 17:45 authored by Ebin John DanielEbin John Daniel

Compressed  air  is  a  powerful  source  of  stored  energy  and  is  used  in  a  variety  of  applications varying from painting to pressing, making it a versatile tool for manufacturers.  Due to the high cost and energy consumption associated with producing compressed air and it’s use within industrial manufacturing, it is often referred to as a fourth utility behind electricity, natural gas, and water.  This is the reason why air compressors and associated equipment are often the focus for improvements in the eyes of manufacturing plant managers.

As compressed air can be used in multiple ways, the methods used to extract and transfer the energy from this source vary as well.  Compressed air can flow through different types of piping, such as aluminum, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), rubber, etc.  with varying hydraulic diameters, and through different fittings such as 90-degree elbows, T-junctions, valves, etc.which can cause one of the major concerns related to managing the energy consumption of an air compressor, and that is the waste of air through leaks.

Air leaks make up a considerable portion of the energy that is wasted in a compressed air system,  as they cause a multitude of problems that the compressor will have to makeup  for  to  maintain  the  steady  operation  of  the  pneumatic  devices  on  the  manufacturing floor that rely on compressed air for their application.  When air leaks are formed within the compressed air piping network,  they act as continuous consumers and cause not only the siphoning off of said compressed air, put also reduce the pressure that is needed within the  pipes.   The  air  compressors  will  have  to  work  harder  to  compensate  for  the  losses  in the pressure and the amount of air itself, causing an over consumption of energy and power.Overworking the air compressor also causes the internal equipment to be stretched beyond its capabilities, especially if they are already running at full loads, reducing their total lifespans considerably.  In addition, if there are multiple leaks close to the pneumatic devices on the manufacturing floor, the immediate loss in pressure and air can cause the devices to operate inefficiently and thus cause a reduction in production.  This will all cumulatively impact the manufacturer considerably when it comes to energy consumption and profits.

There are multiple methods of air leak detection and accounting that currently exist so as  to  understand  their  impact  on  the  compressed  air  systems.   The  methods  are  usually conducted when the air compressors are running but during the time when there is no, orminimal, active consumption of the air by the pneumatic devices on the manufacturing floor.This time period is usually called non-production hours and generally occur during breaksor  between  employee  shift  changes.   This  time  is  specifically  chosen  so  that  the  only  air consumption within the piping is that of the leaks and thus, the majority of the energy and power consumed during this time is noted to be used to feed the air leaks.  The collected data is then used to extrapolate and calculate the energy and power consumed by these leaks for the rest of the year.  There are, however, a few problems that arise when using such a method to understand the effects of the leaks in the system throughout the year.  One of the issues is that it is assumed that the air and pressure lost through the found leaks areconstant even during the production hours i.e.  the hours that there is active air consumptionby the pneumatic devices on the floor, which may not be the case due to the increased airflow rates and varying pressure within the line which can cause an increase in the amount of air lost through the same orifices that was initially detected.  Another challenge that arises with using only the data collected during a single non-production time period is that theremay be additional air leaks that may be created later on,  and the energy and power lostdue to the newer air leaks would remain unaccounted for.  As the initial estimates will not include the additional losses, the effects of the air leaks may be underestimated by the plant managers.  To combat said issues, a continuous method of air leak analyses will be required so as to monitor the air compressors’ efficiency in relation to the air leaks in real time.

By studying a model that includes both the production, and non-production hours when accounting  for  the  leaks,  it  was  observed  that  there  was  a  50.33%  increase  in  the  energy losses, and a 82.90% increase in the demand losses that were estimated when the effects ofthe air leaks were observed continuously and in real time.  A real time monitoring system canprovide an in-depth understanding of the compressed air system and its efficiency.  Managing leaks within a compressed air system can be challenging especially when the amount of energy wasted through these leaks are unaccounted for.  The main goal of this research was to finda non intrusive way to calculate the amount of air as well as energy lost due to these leaks using time series pressure measurements.  Previous studies have shown a strong relationship between the pressure difference, and the use of air within pneumatic lines, this correlationalong with other factors has been exploited in this research to find a novel and viable methodof leak accounting to develop a Continuous Air Leak Monitoring (CALM) system.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Ali Razban

Additional Committee Member 2

Jie Chen

Additional Committee Member 3

David Goodman