A pressure regulator is a valve that automatically cuts off the flow of a liquid or gas at a certain pressure. Regulators are used to allow high-pressure fluid supply lines or tanks to be reduced to safe and usable pressures for various applications.
Gas pressure regulators are used to regulate gas pressure and are not used for measuring flow rates. Flowmeters, Rotometers or Mass Flow Controllers are used to accurately regulate gas flow rates.
A pressure regulator’s primary function is to match the flow of gas through the regulator to the demand for gas placed upon the system. If the load flow decreases, then the regulator flow must decrease also. If the load flow increases, then the regulator flow must increase in order to keep the controlled pressure from decreasing due to a shortage of gas in the pressure system.
A pressure regulator includes a restricting element, a loading element, and a measuring element:
In the pictured single-stage regulator, a force balance is used on the diaphragm to control a poppet valve in order to regulate pressure. With no inlet pressure, the spring above the diaphragm pushes it down on the poppet valve, holding it open. Once inlet pressure is introduced, the open poppet allows flow to the diaphragm and pressure in the upper chamber increases, until the diaphragm is pushed upward against the spring, causing the poppet to reduce flow, finally stopping further increase of pressure. By adjusting the top screw, the downward pressure on the diaphragm can be increased, requiring more pressure in the upper chamber to maintain equilibrium. In this way, the outlet pressure of the regulator is controlled.
High pressure gas from the supply enters into the regulator through the inlet valve. The gas then enters the body of the regulator, which is controlled by the needle valve. The pressure rises, which pushes the diaphragm, closing the inlet valve to which it is attached, and preventing any more gas from entering the regulator.
The outlet side is fitted with a pressure gauge. As gas is drawn from the outlet side, the pressure inside the regulator body falls. The diaphragm is pushed back by the spring and the valve opens, letting more gas in from the supply until equilibrium is reached between the outlet pressure and the spring. The outlet pressure therefore depends on the spring force, which can be adjusted by means of an adjustment handle or knob.
The outlet pressure and the inlet pressure hold the diaphragm/poppet assembly in the closed position against the force of the large spring. If the supply pressure falls, it is as if the large spring tension is increased allowing more gas and higher pressure to build in the outlet chamber until an equilibrium pressure against the large spring is reached and the poppet closes. Thus, if the supply pressure falls, the outlet pressure will increase. This is the cause of end-of-tank dump where the supply is provided by a pressurized gas tank. With single stage regulator, when the supply tank gets low, the lower inlet pressure causes the outlet pressure to climb. If the spring tension is not adjusted to compensate, the poppet can remain open and allow the tank to rapidly dump its remaining contents.
Two stage regulators are two single stage regulators in one that operate to reduce the pressure progressively in two stages instead of one. The first stage, which is preset, reduces the pressure of the supply gas to an intermediate stage; gas at that pressure passes into the second stage. The gas now emerges at a pressure (working pressure) set by the pressure adjusting control knob attached to the diaphragm. Two stage regulators have two safety valves, so that if there is any excess pressure there will be no explosion. A major objection to the single stage regulator is the need for frequent torque adjustment. If the supply pressure falls, the outlet pressure increases, necessitating torque adjustment. In the two stage regulator, there is automatic compensation for any drop in the supply pressure. Single stage regulators may be used with pipe lines and cylinders. Two stage regulators are used with cylinders and manifolds.
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