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Name: Jose
Status: Educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: TX
Country: United States
Date: Fall 2009


Question:
We are talking about reactions and how increasing the pressure usually leads to a faster chemical reaction. My student brought up a good question...how do factories/manufacturers produce high artificial pressure? Can you please tell me the machinery and how it works/overall mechanism?



Replies:
There are many ways to increase pressure. One way is to simply push on the fluid. The machinery that pushes fluids is known as a "pump", and there are different kinds of pumps for different applications and different kinds of fluids. For liquids, there are lots of styles of pumps; one common type uses an impeller (something like a propeller) to push liquids. For gases, you might use a pump, or also you might use a compressor. A compressor is like a pump, except it reduces the volume of a gas internally (creating a contained volume of gas of higher pressure). You can also use a (compressed) gas to push a liquid or pressurize a tank of liquid. If you search on the Internet for "pump" or "compressor" you can find a great deal of information about the types and inner workings of each.

I also want to address your comment about pressure and reaction rate. That statement is fine for gaseous reactants, but it is not generally true for liquids or solids. The rate of a reaction depends on concentration of reactants, and since liquids are basically incompressible, pressurizing liquid reactants would not increase their concentrations, and therefore would not increase the reaction rate.

Hope this helps,
Burr Zimmerman


Hi Jose,

There are many different ways to achieve high pressure, and which one is used depends on what is most compatible with the manufacturing process requiring the pressure. Compressors, pumps and hydraulics are common ways to increase pressure in a reaction vessel. Heating a gas or liquid in a closed vessel is another. Even detonating an explosive mixture in a contained closed vessel to produce an ultra high pressure shock wave is sometimes used. It all depends on the process that requires the high pressure.

Regards,

Bob Wilson



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