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Application of Elastomeric Materials to Valves in Reciprocating Gas Compressors
Recent research into the application of elastomeric materials into reciprocating compressor valves has shown that substantial and measureable improvements in compressor valve longevity and valve element sealing efficiency over current short fiber reinforced thermoplastics is possible. Advances in polymer technology have provided elastomeric materials that possess thermomechanical and chemical resistance properties suitable for compressor valve applications. Elastomers alone possess the inherent ability to form gas tight seals over a wide range of irregular surfaces however elastomeric materials typically lack the mechanical properties to resist the severe loads imparted by high differential pressures. A method has been developed whereby a thermoset or thermoplastic substrate is used in conjuction with an elastomeric overlay to operate at pressures up to 600 psid. In this manner, the improved sealing capabilities of elastomeric materials can be realized in reciprocating compressor valves with differential pressures that allow for application to most compressed gas services. This technology not only improves the operational efficiency of compressor valves but the substantial improvements in the mean time between failures suggests that unscheduled compressor shutdowns and the costs associated with them can be minimized or avoided in the interval between compressor overhauls. Non-linear FEA is used to evaluate the contact behavior between the elastomeric element and rigid seating surface. Understanding and optimizing the contact regions allows for efficient geometries to be used that keep operational stresses below thresholds where damage to the elastomeric materials can occur. Due to the dynamics of compressor valve elements, rigid/glassy materials are typically excluded from use however the energy dissipation properties of elastomers will provide opportunities for thermoset or thermoplastic materials with favorable chemical resistance, but lacking the necessary impact
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