Nasta Compressed Air Services

The history of compressed air

The very first air compressors were bellows used for metallurgy as far back as 2000 B.C. And these low pressure devices were powered by hand, foot and later on by water wheels. The air compressors main use was to fan fires that were hot enough to smelt and forge metal ores.

We still make use of bellows today; they are often hung around English fireplaces. They are used by musicians to provide compressed air to the instruments like the accordion.

Hand rulers in ancient China made use of double acting piston bellows during the third century B.C.

Inventors experimented with boiling water during the 18th century, creating large quantities of gas which cause solid containers to explode. James Watts is acknowledged worldwide for developing steam power into a useable energy source.

Compressed air was only seen as a method of transporting energy until the late 19th century.

The number of Cornish mines grew four fold between 1801 and 1862. This explosion in commerce then led the way to the Holman Brothers developing the compressed air rock drills. The Holmans Foundary which is based in Camborne was internationally acclaimed for its production of quality compressed air tools.

At this time, there were steam powered compressors used for many different applications, from locomotives that had air breaks not too different from what we might see on lorries today, to early diving experiments.

Between the year 1857 and 1870, rock drills were often used to connect France and Italy with a tunnel under Mount Cenis. In the rock drill compressed air was conveyed to a smaller cylinder that works a piston. A jumper is then connected to this piston with a rod. Air that is being forced behind the piston then impels the jumper against the rock and then it is brought back by an opening valve that allows the air through to the front of the piston.

Some cities like Birmingham, Paris and Buenos Aires had a compressed air grid system in place in the late 19th century. Initially, the purpose was to power clocks by giving off a pulse of air every minute, this then gave way to delivering power to homes etc.

Paris then had a 30-mile-wide 80 psi compressed air system that was powered by over 3000hp of compressed air equipment by 1896.

Compressed air was then mixed with gasoline in order to power rockets in the early 20th century.

The 1930’s then brought about the era of screw compressors. Heinrich Krigar from Germany first patented the technology in 1878. And this then offered a much more reliable, more efficient and quieter source of compressed air.

Nasta Compressed Air is fully equipped to handle any type of repairs, service or refurbishment on any compressor. Visit our website on for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *