Turbo Cartridges

A turbocharger is an exhaust gas driven compressor used in internal-combustion engines to increase the power output of the engine by increasing the mass of oxygen 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.       

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 wasted energy from the exhaust gases. The compressor and turbine spin on the same shaft, similar to a turbojet aircraft engine.

The term supercharger is very often used when referring to a mechanically driven turbocharger, which is most often driven from the engine's crankshaft by means of a belt (otherwise, and in many aircraft engines, by a turbosurgery), whereas a turbocharger is exhaust-driven, the name turbocharger being a contraction of the earlier "turbosupercharger". Because the turbine of a turbocharger is in-itself a heat engine, a turbocharger equipped engine will normally compress the intake air more efficiently than a mechanical supercharger. But because of "turbo lag" (see below), engines with mechanical superchargers are typically more responsive.

The compressor increases the pressure of the air entering the engine, so a greater mass of oxygen enters the combustion chamber in the same time interval (an increase in fuel is required to keep the mixture the same air to fuel ratio). This greatly improves the volumetric efficiency of the engine, and thereby creates more power. The additional fuel is provided by the proper tuning of the fuel injectors or carburetor.

The increase in pressure is called "boost" and is measured in pascals, bars or lbf/in?. The energy from the extra fuel leads to more overall engine power. For example, at 100% efficiency a turbocharger providing 101 kPa (14.7 lbf/in?) of boost would effectively double the amount of air entering the engine because the total pressure is twice atmospheric pressure. However, there are some parasitic losses due to heat and exhaust backpressure from the turbine, so turbochargers are generally only about 80% efficient, at peak efficiency, 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) and the now-compressed intake air has been heated, reducing its density.

For automobile use, typical boost pressure is in the general area of 80 kPa (11.6 lbf/in?), 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 a certain rpm where the engine starts producing enough exhaust gas to spin the turbocharger fast enough to make pressure. This engine rpm is referred to as the boost threshold. Another fact to observe is that the relation between boost pressure and compressor rpm is somewhat exponential, and the relation between compressor rpm and airflow is very small. A turbocharger that is pushing 15 psi when the engine is at 3000 rpm will only have increased a little bit in speed when maintaining the same pressure at 6000 engine rpm; given that it is still within the design limits of the compressor. For this very same reason, belt driven centrifugal superchargers have a very narrow power band and deliver max boost only when the engine is at max rpm.

 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 reduces 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.

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 detonation occurs. The higher temperature is a volumetric efficiency downgrade for both types of engine. The pumping-effect heating can be alleviated by aftercooling (sometimes called intercooling).

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