Is Your Air Exhausted? New Accumulator Design Could Save and Reuse It

During a recent PACK EXPO conference I stopped by “The Future of Pneumatics” booth and had the opportunity to see firsthand a demonstration on how a new kind of accumulator can save and reuse exhausted air.  

In the United States, according to the U. S. Department of Energy, fluid power consumes between two and three quadrillion BTUs of energy per year, representing 2-3% of the country’s total annual energy consumption. Fluid power systems operate with an average efficiency of 22%, with industrial pneumatic systems typically achieving between 12% and 17%. Center for Efficient and Compact Fluid Power (CCEFP) students at Vanderbilt University are looking at ways to, ” Improve current systems to increase efficiency that can have the potential for significant savings across all fields. CCEFP preliminary tests have shown efficiency increases of 25%.”

Accumulators are common elements in fluid power circuits used to temporarily store energy. When attached to the exhaust of any pneumatic actuator, strain energy accumulators use the hyperelastic behavior of elastomers and their large strain percent and energy density to store energy. The system saves and reuses exhausted air with a unique low-cost elastomeric accumulator. The recycled air can be reused in the same cylinder or any nearby cylinder.

During their research the CCEFP students worked to:

  • Identify common sources of waste and energy inefficiency
  • Reclaim pressurized exhaust gas from pneumatically actuated systems
  • Utilize a strain energy accumulator to store and maintain pressurized air
  • Reroute the air from the accumulator to power additional pneumatic systems without additional input
  • Characterize in terms of efficiency and potential savings

The goal of this project is to reclaim and recycle the exhaust gas in pneumatic systems to completely power secondary and tertiary pneumatics utilizing otherwise wasted energy.  This will result in significant improvements to pneumatic system efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about when the strain energy accumulator research project will be available for licensing email me at drockhill@nfpa.com.

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