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Axial Compressors vs. Centrifugal Compressors

Most modern aircraft are powered by gas turbine engines due to their ability to generate enormous power in a relatively confined space. There are several types of jet engines available, but each of them have some parts they share. One major example are compressors which increase the pressure of incoming air before it enters the burner. Compressing the air before it is mixed with fuel ensures that there is sufficient oxygen to effectively burn mixtures and generate enough force to propel the aircraft while exhausting as little fuel as possible. When considering these compressors, there are two main types: axial compressors and centrifugal compressors. Whereas centrifugal compressors have the air flowing outward perpendicular to the axis of rotation, axial compressors have the air flowing parallel to the axis of rotation. 

How Do Axial Compressors Work?

Axial compressors essentially consist of a combination of spinning and stable blades that force the air through tight spaces to compress it. In the device, there are several rows of blades similar to a wing. Some of the rows, called rotors, are connected to the central shaft and rotate at high speed. Other rows, called stators, are fixed and do not rotate. As the air flows from one row to the next, it is spun and forced through small openings between the blades so that the oxygen atoms are pushed closer and closer together. Once it makes it to the combustion chamber, the air will have been condensed and heated considerably so that igniting a mixture of air and fuel is quick and powerful.

How Do Centrifugal Compressors Work?

As stated earlier, centrifugal compressors work differently than axial compressors in that the air flows perpendicular to the axis of rotation. As such, rather than using a mix of stable and rotating blades, centrifugal compressors only use a set of spinning blades that are shaped to propel the air outward in a spiral. This similarly forces the air through tight spaces between the blades, but with a different angle of motion.

Comparing the Two Types

Axial and centrifugal compressors work similarly to condense the oxygen in air before it reaches the combustion chamber. However, each type comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In general, axial compressors have the benefit of high efficiency and large flow rates in relation to their size. They also offer the most compact and lightweight option for compressing large volumes, and the lowest cost per-flow rate for large flow rate applications. Nevertheless, there are several disadvantages to axial compressors in that they are difficult to manufacture, have high starting power requirements, and are sensitive to flow disruptions, as well as aerodynamic stall and angle of attack. Conversely, centrifugal compressors are easy to design and produce, require low maintenance, have fewer rubbing parts, and are less sensitive to flow disruptions. However, they do require a large frontal area for certain flow rates, are unsuitable for high compression, and are sensitive to changes in gas composition.


Overall, axial compressors are great for large volume, high flow rate applications, while centrifugal compressors may be better suited for more general operations. Regardless, both compressor types are frequently used on aircraft as a dependable source of air compression. Whether you are looking for high-quality compressor parts, or other aircraft appliances, you can depend on Civil Aviation 360 as a trusted distributor for bearings, fasteners, connectors parts, and aircraft parts. Beyond giving our customers access to a vast inventory of reliable aviation components, our market expertise and purchasing power allows us to leverage time and cost savings for all the items we offer. If any of the products in our catalog pique your interest, you may send an Instant RFQ form to receive a quote for your comparisons in just 15 minutes or less!



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