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Both cylinderical and spherical pressure
vessels are common structures that are
used ranging from large gas storage
structures to small compressed air tanks in
industrial equipment. In this section, only
thin-walled pressure vessels will be

Cylindrical Pressure Vessel with

Internal Pressure

A pressure vessel is assumed to be thinwalled if the wall thickness is less than

10% of the radius (r/t > 10). This condition
assumes that the pressure load will be
transfered into the shell as pure tension (or
compression) without any bending. Thinwalled pressure vessels are also known as
shell structures and are efficient storage
If the outside pressure is greater than the
inside pressure, the shell could also fail
due to buckling. This is an advanced topic
and is not considered in this section.

Cylindrical Pressure Vessels

Only the middle cylindrical section of a
cylinder pressure vessel is examined in
this section. The joint between the end
caps and the mid-section will have
complex stresses that are beyond the
discussion in this chapter.

Cylindrical Vessels will Expierence

Both Hoop and Axial Stress in
the Mid-section

In the mid-section, the pressure will cause

the vessel to expand or strain in only the
axial (or longitudinal) and the hoop (or
circumferential) directions. There will be no
twisting or shear strains. Thus, there will
only be the hoop stress, h and the axial
stress, a. as shown in the diagram at the

Pressure vessels can be analyzed by

cutting them into two sections, and then
equating the pressure load at the cut with
the stress load in the thin walls. In the axial
direction, the axial pressure from the
discarded sections will produce a total axial
force of p(r ) which is simply the cross
section area times the internal pressure. It
is generally assumed that r is the inside
The axial force is resisted by the axial
stress in the vessel walls which have a
thickness of t. The total axial load in the
walls will be a(2rt). Since the cross
section is in equilbrium, the two axial
forces must be equal, giving
Cross Section Cut of
Cylindrical Vessel

p(r ) = a(2rt)

This can be simplified to

where r is the inside radius and t is the wall

In addition to the axial stress, there will be
a hoop stress around the circumference.
The hoop stress, h, can be determined by
taking a vertical hoop section that has a
width of dx. The total horizontal pressure
load pushing against the section will be
p(2r dx) as shown in the diagram.
The top and bottom edge section will resist
the pressure and exert a load of h(t dx)
(each edge). The edge loads have to equal
the pressure load, or
p(2r dx) =h(2t dx)
Hoop Section Cut from
Cylindrical Vessel

This can be simplified to

where r is the inside radius and t is the wall


Spherical Pressure Vessel

A spherical pressure vessel is really just a

special case of a cylinderical vessel. No
matter how the a sphere is cut in half, the
pressure load perpendicular to the cut
must equal the shell stress load. This is the
same situation with the axial direction in a
cylindrical vessel. Equating the to loads
p(r ) = h(2rt)

This can be simplified to

Spherical Pressure Vessel
Cut in Half

Notice, the hoop and axial stress are the

same due to symmetry.