Absolute Pressure?

what is What is Absolute Pressure?

Absolute pressure is a measurement of pressure that is relative to a perfect vacuum. It is the total pressure exerted by a fluid, such as a gas or liquid, on a given surface and includes both the atmospheric pressure and any additional pressure from the fluid itself. In other words, absolute pressure is the pressure measured above a complete absence of pressure, which is often represented as zero pressure or a perfect vacuum.

absolute pressure

The standard unit of measurement for absolute pressure in the International System of Units (SI) is the pascal (Pa), but other units like pounds per square inch (psi) are also used, especially in non-SI contexts. It’s important to note that absolute pressure takes into account the pressure of the atmosphere, so it will always be greater than or equal to atmospheric pressure at a given location.

Mathematically, you can express absolute pressure as:

Absolute Pressure = Atmospheric Pressure + Gauge Pressure


  • Atmospheric Pressure is the pressure exerted by the Earth’s atmosphere at a specific location and can vary with altitude and weather conditions.
  • Gauge Pressure is the pressure above atmospheric pressure that is typically measured by pressure gauges. If the gauge reads zero, it means the pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure. Positive gauge pressure indicates pressure greater than atmospheric, while negative gauge pressure indicates pressure lower than atmospheric (a vacuum).

In many engineering and scientific applications, it is essential to use absolute pressure to ensure accurate measurements, especially in situations where pressure variations due to changes in altitude or environmental conditions need to be taken into account.

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Absolute pressure Example

Sure! Let’s use a simple example involving a balloon to explain absolute pressure.

Imagine you have a balloon in a room. The balloon is filled with air. Now, we want to understand absolute pressure.

  1. Absolute Pressure: Absolute pressure is like the total pressure inside the balloon. It includes the pressure from the air inside the balloon plus the pressure from the air outside the balloon in the room.
  2. Gauge Pressure: Gauge pressure, on the other hand, is like the pressure just from the air inside the balloon, without considering the air outside the balloon.

Now, let’s break it down:

  • Absolute Pressure: If you were to measure the absolute pressure inside the balloon, you’d be counting the pressure from the air inside the balloon and the pressure from the air in the room around it. So, if the pressure inside the balloon is 15 pounds per square inch (psi), and the air in the room is 14.7 psi (typical atmospheric pressure), the absolute pressure inside the balloon would be 15 psi + 14.7 psi, which equals 29.7 psi.
  • Gauge Pressure: If you were to measure just the gauge pressure, you would subtract the atmospheric pressure from the absolute pressure. So, in this case, it would be 29.7 psi (absolute) – 14.7 psi (atmospheric) = 15 psi (gauge).

Here’s the key point: Absolute pressure considers all the pressure, including the pressure from the air around the balloon, while gauge pressure only looks at the pressure from the air inside the balloon, ignoring the outside pressure.

So, when you hear about absolute pressure, think of it as the total pressure, including the pressure from the environment, while gauge pressure focuses on just the pressure from the inside. This concept is crucial in various applications, like measuring altitude in airplanes or depth in water, where the external pressure (like atmospheric pressure or water pressure) matters.

Absolute Pressure another Example

Of course, let’s use a very simple example involving a balloon to explain absolute pressure:

Imagine you have a balloon in your hand, and you squeeze it gently. The balloon gets smaller. Now, you want to understand absolute pressure.

  • Absolute Pressure: Absolute pressure is like the total pressure inside the balloon, no matter if you squeeze it or leave it alone. It’s the pressure from the air inside the balloon plus the pressure from the air outside the balloon.
  • Gauge Pressure: Gauge pressure would be the pressure just from the air inside the balloon when you squeeze it, without considering the air pressure outside.

Now, here’s how it works:

  • Absolute Pressure: If you measure the absolute pressure inside the balloon, you’re counting the pressure from the air inside the balloon and the pressure from the air outside it. So, whether you squeeze the balloon or not, the absolute pressure considers both. Let’s say it’s 10 units of pressure.
  • Gauge Pressure: If you measure just the gauge pressure while squeezing the balloon, you’d be looking at the pressure from the air inside the balloon alone. Let’s say it’s 5 units of pressure. This means when you’re squeezing the balloon, the gauge pressure is 5 units, but the absolute pressure remains 10 units because it includes both the inside and outside pressures.

So, when you hear about absolute pressure, think of it as the total pressure inside and outside, while gauge pressure focuses on the pressure from the air inside the balloon when you do something specific to it, like squeezing it.

absolute pressure formula

The formula for calculating absolute pressure is:

[ Absolute Pressure = Gauge Pressure + Atmospheric Pressure ]


  • Absolute Pressure is the total pressure, including both the pressure from the fluid or gas being measured (gauge pressure) and the atmospheric pressure acting on the system.
  • Gauge Pressure is the pressure measured relative to atmospheric pressure. It represents the pressure exerted by the fluid or gas inside a closed system.
  • Atmospheric Pressure is the pressure exerted by the Earth’s atmosphere at a specific location and time. It is typically considered to be 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi) at sea level under standard atmospheric conditions.

This formula allows you to convert between gauge pressure and absolute pressure by adding or subtracting the atmospheric pressure, depending on whether you are going from gauge to absolute or vice versa.

Absolute vs gauge pressure

Certainly! Here’s a comparison between absolute and gauge pressure in tabular form:

AspectAbsolute PressureGauge Pressure
Reference PointPerfect vacuum (no pressure)Local atmospheric pressure
Zero PointTypically around 101.3 kPa (sea level)Local atmospheric pressure
Use CasesAltitude measurement, weather forecasting, scuba diving, scientific and industrial processesTire pressure gauges, pressure cookers, most industrial processes
Value RangeAlways positiveCan be positive (above atmospheric pressure) or negative (below atmospheric pressure)
InterchangeabilityAbsolute = Gauge + Atmospheric PressureGauge = Absolute – Atmospheric Pressure
Atmospheric VariationAffected by changes in atmospheric pressureNot significantly affected by atmospheric pressure changes
ExampleMeasuring the pressure inside a scuba tankChecking the pressure in a car tire

This table highlights the key differences between absolute and gauge pressure measurements, including their reference points, use cases, value ranges, and how they respond to changes in atmospheric pressure.

Application of Absolute Pressure

Absolute pressure measurements find applications in various fields and industries where accurate pressure readings are essential. Some common applications of absolute pressure include:

  1. Aerospace: It is crucial in aviation and aerospace for altitude measurement, cabin pressure control, and engine performance monitoring. Aircraft altimeters, cabin pressure sensors, and rocket propulsion systems rely on absolute pressure measurements.
  2. Weather Forecasting: Meteorologists use absolute pressure data to monitor and predict weather conditions. Barometers, which measure atmospheric pressure, are important tools in weather stations and forecasting.
  3. Vacuum Technology: In vacuum chambers used for scientific experiments, semiconductor manufacturing, and material processing, absolute pressure measurements ensure the desired vacuum levels are maintained.
  4. Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology: It is essential in processes like filtration, distillation, and fermentation, where precise control of pressure is needed to ensure product quality and yield.
  5. Industrial Processes: Many industrial processes, such as chemical manufacturing and food processing, require precise pressure control. Absolute pressure measurements are used to monitor and regulate pressure within equipment and pipelines.
  6. Oil and Gas Industry: Absolute pressure measurements are vital for drilling operations, wellhead control, and pipeline monitoring in the oil and gas industry. They help ensure safety and efficiency in extracting and transporting fluids.
  7. Aviation Instruments: It is used in aircraft instruments like airspeed indicators and altimeters to provide accurate readings for navigation and safety.
  8. Scuba Diving: Divers use absolute pressure gauges to monitor their depth underwater. Knowing the absolute pressure helps them calculate their depth and avoid decompression sickness.
  9. Medical Devices: Some medical devices, like ventilators and anesthesia machines, require precise control of gas pressure, which is often measured in absolute pressure units.
  10. Space Exploration: In space missions, absolute pressure measurements are crucial for maintaining life support systems and ensuring the safe operation of spacecraft.
  11. Laboratory Research: Scientific experiments and research often require precise pressure control and measurement, which is achieved using instruments that provide absolute pressure readings.
  12. Environmental Monitoring: Absolute pressure is used in instruments for monitoring and measuring groundwater levels, as well as in oceanography to measure water pressure at different depths.

These are just a few examples, and absolute pressure measurements have diverse applications in many other fields where pressure control and monitoring are critical for safety, quality control, and scientific research.

Advantages of Absolute Pressure

The advantages of using absolute pressure measurements in various applications include:

  1. Universal Reference Point: It is referenced to a perfect vacuum, making it a universal reference point that does not depend on local atmospheric conditions. This consistency allows for accurate comparisons across different locations and altitudes.
  2. Precision: Absolute pressure measurements provide high precision, making them suitable for applications where small pressure variations are critical, such as in scientific experiments, aerospace, and medical devices.
  3. Altitude Independence: In applications like aviation and scuba diving, where altitude changes affect pressure, absolute pressure eliminates the need for complex altitude corrections. This simplifies calculations and enhances safety.
  4. Standardization: It is commonly used in international standards and units (e.g., pascals), facilitating global communication and collaboration in various industries and scientific disciplines.
  5. Accurate Depth Measurement: In underwater applications, using absolute pressure allows for accurate depth calculations, as it accounts for both atmospheric pressure and the pressure due to water depth.
  6. Consistent Weather Forecasting: Meteorologists rely on absolute pressure to make consistent weather predictions, as it provides a stable baseline for monitoring atmospheric changes.
  7. Safety and Control: Absolute pressure measurements are crucial for safety in industrial processes, ensuring that systems operate within safe pressure ranges. They also provide precise control in manufacturing and chemical processes.
  8. Space Exploration: In space missions, where there is no atmospheric pressure, absolute pressure measurements are essential for life support systems, spacecraft design, and mission planning.
  9. High-Altitude Research: Scientists conducting research at high altitudes or in extreme environments benefit from the accuracy and consistency of absolute pressure measurements.
  10. Engine Performance Optimization: Absolute pressure sensors are used in automotive and aerospace engineering to optimize engine performance, fuel efficiency, and emissions control.
  11. Medical Accuracy: In medical equipment like ventilators and blood pressure monitors, absolute pressure sensors ensure accurate readings and reliable patient care.
  12. Environmental Monitoring: Absolute pressure data aids in environmental monitoring and research, helping scientists understand atmospheric changes and their impact on ecosystems.
  13. Consistency in Industrial Processes: Industries such as oil and gas rely on absolute pressure measurements to maintain process safety and product quality, even in diverse operating conditions.

In summary, absolute pressure offers a stable, precise, and universally understood measurement reference that is essential in a wide range of applications, contributing to safety, accuracy, and efficiency across various industries and scientific fields.

Disadvantage of Absolute Pressure

While absolute pressure measurements offer many advantages, they also come with certain disadvantages and limitations:

  1. Limited Context: Absolute pressure measurements provide a pressure value relative to a perfect vacuum, which may not always be the most intuitive or relevant reference point for certain applications. In some cases, gauge pressure (pressure relative to the local atmospheric pressure) might be more appropriate.
  2. Complexity: In some situations, working with absolute pressure can be more complex than gauge pressure because it requires accounting for atmospheric pressure. This complexity can lead to errors if not properly considered.
  3. Cost: Instruments capable of measuring absolute pressure are often more expensive and specialized than those designed for gauge pressure measurements. This can increase equipment costs in certain applications.
  4. Maintenance: Absolute pressure sensors and instruments may require more maintenance and calibration to ensure accuracy, as they are often used in critical applications where precision is crucial.
  5. Inaccurate at High Altitudes: At extremely high altitudes, where atmospheric pressure is significantly lower, the use of absolute pressure measurements can become impractical because the values may become very small and less precise.
  6. Not Suitable for Gauge Pressure: In applications where the pressure measurement is most relevant when compared to the local atmospheric pressure (e.g., tire pressure in vehicles), absolute pressure is not the most suitable choice. Gauge pressure is preferred in such cases.
  7. Lack of Altitude Information: It alone does not provide information about the altitude of an object or location. While it can be used to calculate altitude in conjunction with atmospheric pressure data, this requires additional sensors or measurements.
  8. Atmospheric Variations: Changes in local atmospheric pressure due to weather conditions can affect absolute pressure measurements. In some applications, such as altimeters, this variability needs to be considered and compensated for.
  9. Not Ideal for Some Industrial Processes: In certain industrial processes where pressure variations are within a known range and are not affected by atmospheric conditions, gauge pressure may be a more practical choice.
  10. Complex Data Conversion: When working with absolute pressure data, it may be necessary to convert it into other pressure units or reference points for specific applications, which can introduce complexities and potential errors.

In summary, the disadvantages of using absolute pressure measurements primarily revolve around the complexity of working with them, their potential lack of relevance in specific contexts, and the need for additional considerations when compared to gauge pressure measurements. The choice between absolute and gauge pressure depends on the specific requirements of the application and the level of precision needed.

Reference : https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Absolute_pressure

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