Monday, May 4, 2009

PSA Nitrogen Generator - Is It Adsorption or Absorption?

PSA Nitrogen Generators are the sturdy work horses of Nitrogen generation. They separate Nitrogen from the air through straightforward and reliable technology and last for 20 years or more with little maintenance. So what exactly does the PSA stand for?

"Presssure Swing" (the "PS") refers to the pressurization of the two vessels used for separation, which are typically filled with carbon. As the first one fills with air under pressure, the carbon material attracts all of the smaller oxygen and trace molecules, allowing the larger Nitrogen molecules to pass through the carbon and into a storage tank. As the first vessel is saturated, it starts to release pressure and vent off the oxygen, while at the same time the second vessel is starting the whole process over again. Hence the "swing" of pressure from vessel to vessel, resulting in a continuous process of Nitrogen production.

So what about the "A"? At South-Tek, we think the more accurate term for what occurs during this "swing" of pressure is Adsorption, and we are sticking with it. But it is just as common to hear the process referred to as "Pressure Swing Absorption."

To "absorb" is defined as "to soak up; to take up or receive by chemical action."

The definition of "adsorb" is to "accumulate (liquids or gases) on the surface; to gather (a gas, liquid, or dissolved substance) on a surface in a condensed layer."

It may seem like a picky distinction, but since the carbon under pressure holds molecules of certain gases on it's surface, then releases them when not pressurized, we find that adsorb more accurately describes the separation process. The carbon attracts the molecules of all gases in the air except Nitrogen, which is too big to "fit" on its surface. The carbon doesn't really "absorb" or soak up those molecules, it just holds onto them for a while until just the Nitrogen can be collected.

Regardless of the terminology, the end result is the same. Nitrogen gas is generated from the air cheaply, safely, and reliably, while eliminating the hassles of gas deliveries, storage of bottles and tanks, and keeping track of gas contracts.

Discover how a PSA Nitrogen Generator can simplify your production line by contacting South-Tek Systems today.


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