California-based Carnot claims to have built an upgrade to the modern and ubiquitous air compressor, a machine that they say is sustainable and more efficient than the traditional, commonly used workshop tool.
The company says its design cuts down the noise noticeably, improves heat management, and reduces the cost of ownership by as much as 20 percent, all while using no oil.
The new design is inspired by a sixteenth-century device called a trompe, which used the force of falling water, and the resulting air bubbles, to compress the air and push it through a pipe using no moving parts whatsoever. These machines were used in Catalonia as part of a unique forging process, as well as in mines.
A trompe needed to be very large, however, to create any real pressure. One built at Ragged Chute, Ontario, for example, uses a 345-foot (105-meter) drop to create just 128 psi. The Carnot team had to look for another method that would allow them to accelerate air bubbles through a small pipe to achieve the same effect: they settled on a centrifuge system.
The Carnot compressor sucks air in through a filter at the top and mixes it with water using a fast-spinning drum. Faster the water spins, heavier the water gets, meaning that the water squashes and compresses the air. The mixture is then separated into compressed air and water as it passes through the exit channels.
The compressed air goes into a tank while the water is fed through a heat exchanger, which cools the water and feeds cool water back into the drum. The only moving parts are the spinning drum, which is powered by a relatively quiet electric motor.
Carnot is still developing its machine and is seeking investors to take its technology to a market expected to be worth around over $40 billion USD by 2025. Could we soon see a widely-used replacement for the humble air compressor?