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Compressor valves

Compressor valves

Designs and installation

The gas flow in and out of the cylinder is controlled by self actuated, that is gas pressure controlled in- and outlet valves (suction and discharge valves).

In small and single acting compressors  with relatively high revolutions per minute preferentially reed valves are used. In medium and large piston compressors nearly always ring or plate valves find application, in  special cases also poppet valves [21].

With ring valves ( 1) the valve seat (1) is a plate with  slots of concentric circular shape,  which are connected by bridges. The free ring areas in the valve seat  are sealed by individual  non metallic rings ( 3 ), which are held against the seat by coil springs ( 4,5), which in turn are enclosed  on the circumference by spring pockets. After building up of a sufficiently high pressure difference over the valve ring  the valve opens in a relatively short period of time. The valve lift is limited by a valve guard (2 ) , which again is fitted with slots similar to the seat. Seat and guard are bolted together via a central bolt ( 6 ) . With plate valves , the seat ports are closed by a common valve plate made from steel or from non metallic material, which again is fitted with slots.

Suction and discharge valves are of the same basic design and only differ with the location of seat and guard in relation to the working chamber.

For proper functioning of the compressor valves the installation in the cylinder has to be adequately designed.

Installion a : Suction and discharge valve are located next to each other in the cylinder cover. The additional clearance volume remains thereby small. The available valve area is, however, very limited . The holding down of the valves is carried out via valve cages and bolts , which are fitted in the valve covers. These have to be sufficiently strong. This design enables easy access to the valves for servicing.

Installation b : By arranging suction and discharge valve concentrically, the valve cover area can be used in full . In order to avoid excessive heat transfer from the warm gas on the delivery side to the gas on the suction side, both valve chambers are separated by a cooled compartment.

Installation a) and b) are in the main limited to simple plunger type compressors.

Installation c : With crosshead compressors, valves are preferentially fitted on the circumference of the  cylinder . Thereby valves with larger passage areas can be fitted, which results in smaller pressure drops but also entails larger clearance volumes.

With reed valves  the closing of the seat area is done via a self sprung or spring loaded strip of spring steel , the reed .  Thereby the design is kept simple and moving masses are low. This design is especially suited for fast running compressors.

When using reed valves, the cylinder head has to be adapted to the reed valve design and has to incorporate large valve chambers ( 6,7 ) .The common cylinder block  ( 5 ) of a two cylinder compressor  is fitted with a sufficiently  stiff  common seat plate ( 1 ). The suction reeds ( 2 ) open into the  working chamber and are limited in lift by a stop face on the cylinder circumference. The discharge reeds ( 3 ) have a guard ( 4 ).


The passage area in the seat is called seat area. With fully opened valve the passage area  will be given free between seat and the closing device ( i.e.  ring, plate, reed ). This passage area is proportional to the maximum valve lift.

For smaller pressure losses  large seat areas and valve passage areas are of advantage. To have the passage area larger than the seat area ( opening ratio > 1 )  does not result in lower pressure losses and increases the dynamic stresses of the moving valve components.

With the static valve calculation the pressure losses are taken as the dynamic pressure loss at a characteristic gas velocity. This results as continuity calculation with the so called equivalent area of the valve and the mean value of the piston  velocity over valve opening time.

The ratio of equivalent area to nest area ( valve efficiency VE ) is from experience  dependent only  on the maximum lift. Profiled ring valves have a better flow pattern and therefore a higher VE value.

In order to ensure a sufficient valve  life  the behaviour of valve motion during opening and closing ( valve dynamics ) has  to fulfil the following criteria:

The impact velocity of the valve plate on the guard should not exceed a limit of 3 to 4 m/sec (depending on plate material and design).

On closing there should be no reversal of movement ( valve flutter ) and the valve should be closed with only small delay in relation to the piston reaching top dead center ( late closure ).

With the dynamic valve calculation the valve lift over valve opening time  is calculated from the balance of forces acting on the valve plate.

The enclosed graphs show the result of such a calculation for the opening motion of a suction valve in a hydrogen compressor. As long as the suction effect of the movement of the piston is not balanced by  the volume flow of gas entering the working chamber  the cylinder pressure will diminish. Thereby the gas force and the acceleration force on the valve ring will increase. Due to the increasing acceleration the valve plate velocity will progressively increase. On impact on the guard ( h = hmax = 1 mm ) this velocity will be approx. 3,6 m / sec.

More recent investigations ( Machu, G. [ 16 ] ; Flade, Will ; Steinrück, Aigner, Meyer ) have shown, that the gas dynamic force can only then be calculated  realistically, if the incurred gas pulsations are taken into account. ( Here : decrease  of the gas dynamic force from Fso to Fs ).