Whatever the application, choosing the right gas cylinder is essential.

In this post, Tony Morrin, Technical Director at AMS Composite Cylinders, explores the different types of cylinder available on the market today, and what you need to consider when choosing gas cylinders for a range of applications.

Cylinder Types Explained

Type 1 Gas Cylinders – All Metal

Type 1 gas cylinders are usually manufactured from steel or aluminium. They are the lowest cost and heaviest cylinder type. This makes them most suitable for static applications and high-volume industrial use. Type 1 cylinders are less suitable for applications where low weights and portability is required.

Suitable applications include:

  • Scuba
  • Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP)
  • Laboratory
  • Onsite industrial/manufacturing

Type 2 Gas Cylinders – Hoop-wrapped aluminium

Type 2 gas cylinders are made from aluminium, hoop-wrapped with carbon fibre. They are significantly lighter than Type 1 cylinders, but still significantly heavier than Type 3 carbon composite cylinders. Type 2 cylinders are suitable for a variety of applications where cost is more important than low weight and high pressure.

Suitable applications include:

  • Medical oxygen (in a healthcare setting)
  • Laboratory (high volume use)
  • Onsite industrial/manufacturing

Type 3 Gas Cylinders – Fully-wrapped carbon composite

Type 3 gas cylinders feature a thin and lightweight aluminium liner, fully overwrapped with carbon composite. Type 3 cylinders offer significant weight savings over Type 2 cylinders (up to 30%). They can also be filled to higher pressures (up to 300 bar), so they can offer increased capacity for the same size cylinder. Type 3 lightweight gas cylinders are ideal for applications where portability and capacity are important such as for home oxygen therapy and for medical oxygen cylinders in ambulances.

Suitable applications include:

  • Ambulatory oxygen
  • Portable field testing
  • Drone/UAVs
  • Fuel cell applications
  • Aerospace and military
  • Calibration

Type 4 Gas Cylinders – Full composite

Type 4 gas cylinders are made primarily from carbon composite, with a polymer liner. They are the lightest and most expensive cylinders available on the market today. The key benefit of Type 4 is the low weight, which makes them most suitable for infrequent use applications where maximum portability is required.

The downsides of Type 4 cylinders are that they are less robust and resistant to damage. In addition, the polymer lining does not provide an impermeable barrier, making them prone to leakage.

Suitable applications include:

  • Portable field testing
  • Calibration
  • Military

Type 5 Gas Cylinders – Linerless Composite

Type 5 cylinders are not widely available yet. These are the next generation of gas cylinders, and currently, they are only used in the most advanced military and aerospace applications. They are unlikely to be widely available on the commercial market for a few years.

Type 1, Type 2 or Type 3 – Choosing the Right Gas Cylinder

When specifying gas cylinders for your application, the main factors you need to consider are:

  • Cost
  • Cylinder weight
  • Pressure/capacity
  • Durability
  • Lifespan

Industrial – Onsite

For onsite industrial use, a simple Type 1 gas cylinder is usually the most appropriate and best value solution. In typical applications such as metal fabrication and welding, the cylinders do not need to be moved, so heavier weights are not a major consideration. Cost is usually the primary factor.

Lighter weight Type 2 or Type 3 cylinders can provide a better option for high volume industrial applications where cylinders need to be refilled regularly, and in cases where they need to be moved around a site.

Industrial – Portable

In portable industrial applications, such as mobile welding or mining use, cylinder weight becomes more important. Type 1 cylinders may be suitable where limited portability is required, but Type 2 gas cylinders often provide the best balance between cost and portability. Where low weights and significant portability is required, Type 3 cylinders can be the best option.

Laboratory and Scientific

Type 1 and Type 2 cylinders are suitable for a wide variety of in-lab applications, where portability isn’t required. For field work, equipment testing and calibration applications, Type 3 and in some cases Type 4 cylinders are likely to be more practical, thanks to their lower weights.

Aerospace, UAV and Military

For any kind of flight application, weight matters. Every kg counts, and for that reason, Type 3, Type 4 and Type 5 cylinders are the most suitable, depending on the application. For drone use, Type 3 cylinders can provide a more resilient and robust solution than Type 4. Type 3 cylinders are also most suitable for the aviation industry, where they have full regulatory approval.


For medical gas and oxygen therapy, the primary considerations in choosing a cylinder are capacity and weight. Type 1 cylinders can be suitable for hospital use, but in 2020, Type 2 and Type 3 cylinders are the preferred options. For ambulance and portable/home oxygen use, lightweight cylinders deliver real, practical benefits. Type 3 cylinders, with their lower weights and higher capacities are the natural choice for these applications.

Breathing Apparatus

Choosing the right cylinder for SCBA systems depends heavily on the application.

For diving/SCUBA use, Type 1 cylinders can be the best option, with the natural weight helping to balance out the buoyancy of the diver. In other specialist commercial diving applications, the additional capacity of Type 3 cylinders makes them a more suitable solution.

Modern emergency escape systems require a balance of capacity, durability and low weight – this makes Type 3 cylinders the ideal solution.

For firefighting use, weight is the primary consideration – every gram saved can make a real, practical difference in high pressure, life or death environments. A Type 3 cylinder can help to reduce weights by 35%. Type 4 cylinders have been used in firefighting, but concerns over durability and impact resistance means they are less suitable for use in dangerous environments.

Lightweight Gas Cylinders from AMS Composite Cylinders

AMS Composite Cylinders supplies a full range of advanced, lightweight Type 2 and Type 3 gas cylinders to customers across the UK and Europe.

Our cylinders are used in a wide variety of applications, including healthcare, respiratory, SCBA, laboratory, industrial, emergency, aerospace, and environmental uses.

Carbon composite cylinders offer high pressure (300 Bar), low weight, and NLL (Non-Limited Life) performance, and are accredited for use worldwide, in line with ISO 11119-2, UN-TPED Pi, DOT (USA), TC (Canada).

For additional information about AMS Composite Cylinders Ltd, please contact us today.

This blog was written by Tony Morrin, AMS Composite Cylinders Technical Director