Air compressors use pistons to force air into a high-pressure storage tank. When released, compressed air can be used to power a number of tools or to perform tasks such as inflating a tire. Compressors may be driven by either electric or gasoline engines.
Air compressors may be either portable or stationary with some models utilizing two pistons for a two-stage compression process that provides a higher level of performance. Most compressors draw air in through a simple intake but in some systems compressed nitrogen may be used in place of air in order to provide more consistent performance. When released, pressurized gas produces force which can be harnessed to power hand tools and other equipment.
High-performance vehicles may make use of an on-board air compressor to improve power output. Turbocharged and supercharged engines utilize a belt or emissions-driven air compressor in order to pressurize the air within the combustion chambers. These compressors operate using the same principles as the air compressors that are used to power hand tools, only they are powered by the torque or exhaust produced by a vehicle's engine. Engine-mounted air compressors increase the air pressure within the engine's cylinders rather than storing compressed air within a pressurized tank.