Axial compressors are high speed, large volume compressors but are smaller and somewhat more efficient than comparable centrifugal com pressors. The axial compressor's capital cost is higher than that of a centrifugal but may well be justified by energy cost in an overall evaluation. The pressure ratio per stage is less than that of the centrifugal. In a general comparison, it takes approximately twice as many stages to perform the same pressure ratio as would be required by a centrifugal. The characteristic feature of this compressor, as its name implies, is the axial direction of the flow through the machine.

The energy from the rotor is transferred to the gas by rotating blades— typically, rows of unshrouded blades. Before and after each rotor row is a stationary (stator) row. The first stator blade row is called the guide vane.

The volume range of the axial starts at approximately 30,000 cfm. One of the largest sizes built is 1,000,000 cfm, though this size is certainly not common. The common upper range is 300,000 cfm. The axial compressor, because of a low pressure rise per stage, is exclusively manufactured as a multistage machine.

By far, the largest application of the axial compressor is the aircraft jet engine. The second most common usage is the land-based gas turbine, either the aircraft derivative or generic designed type. In last place of the applications comes the process axial compressor. All principles of operation are exactly the same. About the most obvious difference is that the gas turbine compressor is a higher pressure ratio machine and therefore has more stages.

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