Compressed air is an alternative energy source that comes from the compression of air. Although it requires a small amount of electricity to use a compressed air process, the cost to the environment is minimal. Air is, for the most part, invisible. However, it does, in fact, have a weight and it takes up space.
Methods of compressing air to use it as an energy source, simply put, involve the process of taking out the empty space that exists between air molecules and pressing all the molecules closely together. This process puts the air under pressure, from which energy can eventually be generated.
How Compressed Air Works
Most manufacturing plants that are attempting to utilize this kind of energy do so in steps. First, air must be pumped into the underground areas and then the air is pressurized to just under 100 times the usual 14.7 pounds per square-inch of pressure found in air that it at sea-level. As needed, the pressurized air is slowly released and heated by gas. The heated air then flows through a turbine that spins and causes the generation of electricity.
The method of pressurizing air and storing it underground for later use can save a number of steps that the more traditional methods require. For example, generally, the air that pushes the blades on an energy-generating turbine is pressurized by heat as it turns the blades. This process uses a significant amount of natural gas. However, pressurizing the air underground requires only the heating process, as the air is already compressed. This saves a great deal of natural gas resources from being depleted as quickly as with the more traditional processes.
Alternative Energy History
Using alternative energy sources such as compressed air is not a new idea in the science world; however, it has simply been more convenient to gather energy from sources that do not require the same amount of methodology. In recent decades, as the earth’s resources have begun to noticeably decrease in supply, energy researchers have begun to look for more ways to utilize the power of clean fuels and renewable energy resources, such as air power.
Pressurized air may eventually be able to be used in a variety of ways, other than to simply generate electricity. For example, placing air into an enclose space, such as an inner tube, creates pressure within the inner tube and inflates a tire. With the combination of the pressure against the turbine mechanism, air that is compressed and stored underground may eventually be able to be applied to machines and other equipment that currently get their energy from fuel sources that deplete the earth’s supply.
While plants that pressurize air for energy purposes are not large in number, the process is one in which people in the industry are starting to take notice of. The biggest drawback of using a method such as this is that the process may not be able to generate the same amount of electricity at the same rate as more traditional sources can do. However, because of its strong implications for a positive earth impact, underground air pressure methods are being widely studied and may eventually catch up to other fuel sources in cost-effectiveness as these methods are perfected.