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Aluminum Uses In High Pressure Gas Cylinders

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Most people don’t realize how ubiquitous and indispensable aluminum has become in their daily lives.  When someone mentions the word aluminum they might think of foil or beverage cans, but nearly every industry has been transformed by the tremendous diversity and many benefits of aluminum alloys.  This includes the proliferation of high-pressure gas cylinders.

Gas storage is a necessary component in many different industries.  The ability to store and access all kinds of different gases ranging from the most toxic to oxygen (even ordinary air) used to be extremely difficult and expensive.  Thanks to the development of aluminum alloys there are now plenty of easy and cost-effective solutions.

At Clinton Aluminum, we know that there are a number of important cost and safety concerns having to do with gas storage.  Contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable sales professionals today to learn more.

Why is a cylinder the best storage vessel for gases at high pressure?

You’ve almost certainly seen a gas storage cylinder before.  These pressure vessels are capable of holding gases at much higher pressures than ordinary atmospheric standards. Also known as tanks or bottles, the cylinders are the ideal shape to hold high pressure gases, which can be quite dangerous if not handled correctly.

If a cylinder is damaged it can suddenly be transformed into an uncontrolled rocket or pinwheel, causing plenty of damage and injuring anyone who gets in the way.  Because the gas is stored inside at such a high pressure, if a valve or seal breaks unexpectedly the gas can be released at a very high velocity.

The cylinder shape creates rounded edges that are better able to handle the pressure caused from the gases within.  Rounded materials are able to withstand more force in tension, while non-rounded edges would not be able to stand so much pressure without bursting.  A perfect sphere would be the best receptacle for storing gases, but cylinders are much easier to transport and stack.

Another safety feature of the cylinders are the valves, which have been designed to break with an opening of about 0.75 cm, thereby limiting the rate of gas release.   This can help avoid large cylinders from becoming airborne, though this is still a risk with smaller, lighter cylinders.

What kinds of substances are stored in high pressure gas cylinders?

Cylinders are the most common solution any time it is necessary to store and transport gases at high pressure.  Depending upon the substance the content inside can take many forms, including compressed gas, vapor over liquid, supercritical fluid or dissolved gas in a substrate material.  Cylinders are able to contain all of these different types of high-pressure gases.

The three major groups of compressed gases that regularly get stored in cylinders are liquefied, non-liquefied, and dissolved gases.  We normally measure the pressure inside the cylinders using psi, or pounds per square inch.  A typical oxygen tank might have a psi as high as 1900.

Non-liquefied gases usually referred to simply as compressed gases, include oxygen, helium, silicon hydrides, hydrogen, krypton, nitrogen, argon, and fluorine.  Liquefied gases include carbon dioxide, propane, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, butane, and ammonia.

In the category of dissolved gases, the primary example is acetylene.  It can be very unstable, exploding accidentally at atmospheric pressure if not handled properly.  That’s why the cylinders are filled with a porous, inert material that the gas can dissolve into, creating a stable solution.

Other less common scenarios include gases that liquefy under high pressure and lowered temperatures, including liquid nitrogen, liquid hydrogen, and liquid oxygen.  Known as cryogenic gases, they must be stored in cylinders that have been equipped with a bleed device to prevent overpressure from rupturing the container.

What aluminum alloy is most commonly found in gas cylinders?

High Pressure Gas Cylinders can be made from a number of different materials, including high performance metals and composites.  Of those, aluminum is one of the most common materials in popular use thanks to its high effectiveness at an economical price.

Among the many desirable properties that aluminum offers, the three most important benefits arise from its light weight, durability and corrosion resistance.   In terms of weight, any operation handling gas cylinders could be dealing with dozens, if not hundreds of canisters at one time.  Being able to easily transport and store the tanks is a prime consideration.

The cylinders are also under tremendous pressure; any kind of puncture or break could lead to a dangerous incident.  Aluminum is both strong and durable enough to withstand accidental bumps and impacts without any serious damage.

Finally, the types of substances found in gas cylinders can be extremely noxious and have a detrimental effect on the metal, especially over time.  Aluminum alloys offer excellent corrosion resistance for both the metal canisters themselves as well as the metal valves and other components used with the cylinders.

One of the most common aluminum alloys is 6061 and it is prominently found in gas cylinders.  It is by far the most popular alloy choice for high pressure cylinders and can be found in a host of different types of tanks and bottles.  For example, the oxygen tanks used by scuba divers are often made from this alloy.  6061 is especially prized for its ability to resist corrosion caused by seawater, a primary concern for scuba tanks.  Nitrous oxide tanks also rely on 6061 aluminum.

Summary

At Clinton Aluminum, we pride ourselves on not only being an aluminum supplier, but also on our ability to be a full partner to our customers.  We can help you through every step of the selection process, making sure you can save both money and time.  If you need materials for high pressure gas cylinders, get the help of sales professionals who, together with our partner suppliers, have a thorough understanding of the different types of aluminum alloys and the many benefits they provide.

Contact us today to learn more.

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