Understanding External Pressure Failure in Pressure Vessels


Introduction to the external pressure failure of pressure vessels

External pressure failure refers to the collapse or implosion of a pressure vessel due to the external pressure being greater than the internal pressure. This scenario is the opposite of what many pressure vessels are primarily designed to handle, which is containing high internal pressures. However, it’s crucial to design vessels to withstand both types of pressure differentials.

Why They Give In:

  • The Big Suck: Picture this: you’ve got your vessel chillin’, and then boom, it empties fast or gets cold. Next thing, the air outside’s throwing a full-on wrestling move, creating a vacuum party inside.
  • Steam Goes Bye-Bye: Got Steam? Cool it down too quickly, and it’s like it ghosts, leaving you with less inside than outside.
  • No Exit for Air: If your vessel’s trying to breathe in and out but its airways are blocked, that internal pressure’s going nowhere, setting up a vacuum VIP lounge.
  • Condensation Station: Hot gas turned cold party trick can also lead to the same bash, dropping your internal pressure like it’s not wanted.

What Goes Down:

  • The Crunch: Imagine a soda can under a boot, but it’s your vessel getting all crinkly under the outside push.
  • Domino Effect: Once it starts folding, it’s like watching dominos fall, but less fun because it’s expensive and dangerous.

Beating the Squeeze:

  • Thick Walls: Beefing up those walls can keep the squeeze at bay.
  • Rings of Steel: Think of adding some bling with stiffeners to keep it strong.
  • Shape Up: Go for shapes that don’t fold under pressure, like spheres are the cool kids of geometry here.
  • Choose Wisely: Pick materials that don’t give up easily when things get tough.
  • Safety First: Installing a vacuum relief valve is like having a safety net for your vessel’s internal pressure.

Need a reliable partner?

Red River specializes in the design and manufacturing of pressure vessels. We also fabricate related items such as prefabricated spools and skid packages.

Reach Out to us today and experience the Red River difference. Where American Made and American Values come together, we care more.

FAQ: Understanding External Pressure Failure in Pressure Vessels

What is external pressure failure in pressure vessels?

External pressure failure occurs when a pressure vessel is subjected to a higher external pressure than its internal pressure, leading to potential collapse or implosion. This type of failure is critical in applications where vacuum conditions can occur or in deep-sea environments where external pressure is significantly high.

How does external pressure affect the structural integrity of a pressure vessel?

When external pressure exceeds the internal pressure, it can cause the vessel’s walls to buckle or deform. The severity of this deformation depends on factors like the vessel’s material, wall thickness, and shape. Cylindrical vessels, for instance, are more prone to buckling under external pressure than spherical vessels due to their geometrical differences.

What design considerations are important to prevent external pressure failure?

To prevent external pressure failure, pressure vessels should be designed with adequate wall thickness and appropriate materials that can withstand high external pressures. The use of stiffeners and choosing shapes like spheres or domes that offer better resistance to external pressure are also crucial design considerations. Additionally, implementing safety factors in design calculations can provide an extra margin of safety.

Are there specific materials that are better suited to withstand external pressure?

Materials with high yield strength and ductility are generally better suited for withstanding external pressure. Steel alloys, for instance, are commonly used due to their strength and durability. The material selection also depends on other factors like the operating environment, temperature, and the nature of the contents within the vessel.

How is external pressure testing conducted for pressure vessels?

External pressure testing typically involves subjecting the vessel to a pressure higher than its expected external operating pressure in a controlled environment. This test checks for any signs of buckling or material failure. Hydrostatic testing, where the vessel is filled with water and pressurized, is a common method. For vessels used in vacuum conditions, additional tests like vacuum testing might be conducted.


In the realm of industrial solutions, Red River emerges as a pioneer, offering a diverse range of custom-engineered products and facilities. Among our specialties is the design and production of Custom/OEM Pressure Vessels, meticulously crafted to meet individual client requirements, ensuring performance under various pressure conditions. Our expertise extends to the domain of prefabrication, where Red River leads with distinction.

The company excels in creating prefabricated facilities, modules, and packages, reinforcing its stance as a forerunner in innovation and quality. This proficiency is further mirrored in their Modular Skids offering, where they provide an array of Modular Fabricated Skid Packages and Packaged equipment. Each piece is tailored to client specifications, underlining their commitment to delivering precision and excellence in every project they undertake.

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