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Turbocharger - What is it?
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Old 15 Nov 2005, 08:18 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Turbocharger - What is it?

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Turbocharger - What is it?

A turbocharger is a compressor used in internal-combuSTIon engines to increase the power output of the engine by increasing the mass of oxygen and fuel entering the engine. A key advantage of turbochargers is that they offer a considerable increase in engine power with only a slight increase in weight.

A disadvantage in gasoline engines is that the compression ratio should be lowered (so as not to exceed maximum compression pressure and to prevent engine knocking) which lowers engine efficiency when operating at low power. This disadvantage does not apply to specifically designed turbocharged diesel engines. However, for operation at altitude, the power recovery of a turbocharger makes a big difference to total power output of both engine types. This last factor makes turbocharging aircraft engines considerably advantageous—and was the original reason for development of the device.

Principle of operation
A turbocharger is an exhaust gas driven supercharger. All superchargers have a gas compressor in the intake tract of the engine which compresses the intake air above atmospheric pressure, greatly increasing the volumetric efficiency beyond that of naturally-aspirated engines. A turbocharger also has a turbine that powers the compressor using waste energy from the exhaust gases. Compressor and turbine have the same shaft, similar to a turbojet aircraft engine.

The term supercharger is very often used when referring to a mechanically driven supercharger, which is most often driven from the engine's crankshaft by means of a belt (otherwise, and in many aircraft engines, by a geartrain), whereas a turbocharger is exhaust-driven, the name turbocharger being a contraction of the earlier "turbo-supercharger"

The compressor increases the pressure of the air entering the engine, so a greater "charge" (fuel/air mixture) enters the engine in the same time interval (the increase in fuel is required to keep the mixture the same ratio). This greatly improves the volumetric efficiency of the engine.

The increase in pressure is called "boost" and is measured in pascals, bars or PSI. The energy from the extra fuel leads to more overall engine power. For example, at 100% efficiency a turbocharger providing 100 kPa (1 bar or 14.7 PSI) of boost would effectively double the power of the engine. However, there are some parasitic losses due to heat and exhaust backpressure from the turbine, so turbochargers are generally only about 80% efficient because it takes some work for the engine to push those gases through the turbocharger turbine (which is acting as a restriction in the exhaust).

For automobile use, normal maximum boost pressure is 80 kPa (0.8 bar), but it can be much more. Because it is a centrifugal pump, a typical turbocharger, depending on design, will only start to deliver boost from about 2500 engine rpm (1800 in automotive turbo-diesel engines), while a supercharger will supply some boost at most engine speeds.

A main disadvantage of high boost pressures for internal combuSTIon engines is that compressing the inlet air increases its temperature. This increase in charge temperature is a limiting factor for petrol engines that can only tolerate a limited increase in charge temperature before pre-ignition occurs. The higher temperature is a volumetric efficiency downgrade for both types of engine. The pumping-effect heating can be alleviated by intercooling or aftercooling, or both.
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