Everything you need to know about the Turbocharger
A short history of Turbocharging
Internal combustion pioneers Gottileb Daimler and Rudolf Diesel are credited with first exploring the possibility of improving the power output of their engines through forced induction in the late 19th century. Diesel is actually deemed the inventor of the first mechanical supercharger around the late 1890s.
It wasn’t until the early part of the 20th century that a Swiss engineer by the name Dr. Alfred Buchi put forward his plans for a supercharger driven by exhaust gases, marking the birth of the turbo. However, this earlier version of turbocharging technology wasn’t effective enough to maintain the pressure required in order to provide enhanced performance.
During the 1930s, turbo compressors were used almost exclusively in large engines, such as those of locomotives or ships. In 1938, a Swiss company called Schweizer Maschinenfabrik Saurer developed the first turbochargers for commercial diesel trucks. Throughout the 1950s, turbocharging technology was developed and refined further, which led to turbos being utilized more and more on heavy commercial vehicles like excavators and earthmovers. In 1952, a car using turbocharged engine started in the famous Indianapolis Race on the pole position. Again in the USA, around 1962-3 the Chevrolet Corvair Monza and the Oldsmobile Jetfire became the first production car equipped with exhaust turbocharger.
The turbo revolution really started to gain widespread momentum around the 70s when new and stricter fumes emission norms were being introduced. This contributed significantly to the popularization of the turbocharger. It was also during the 70s that the turbocharger was introduced to Formula 1. Driven by the oil crisis in 1973, the commercial use of turbochargers for diesel engines became a phenomenon.
In the 1980s, turbocharged engines became more widely used in passenger cars. It was around the same time that Volkswagen Golf and Mercedes series 300 with turbo charged diesel engines were introduced. Fast-forward to recent years and most diesel engines are equipped with turbo compressors. Modern turbochargers are popular because they help reduce fuel consumption and emissions while also improving vehicle performance.
What is a Turbocharger?
A turbocharger is in essence a device fitted to automobile’s engine and is designed to improve the overall efficiency and increase performance. It is an exhaust-driven device that boosts an engine's power output. A turbocharger works as a compressor that forces larger quantities of the fuel and air mixture into an engine's intake and pistons than a naturally aspirated engine would. With a turbocharger, the compressor wheel is spun by an attached turbine wheel, already spinning in the flowing exhaust from the engine thus the spinning wheel has fan blades to compress the air that forces its way into the cylinder intake.
Because there is significantly a larger mass of airborne gasoline in the cylinder, a more powerful combustion forces the piston down at a higher speed, putting more torque on the engine shaft. This power can decrease the engine's specific fuel consumption, its fuel-burned-to-power-output ratio, by as much as 14%.
Turbochargers are known to be paving the way for a greener future in the automobile industry. The history of turbo charging dates back almost to the beginnings of internal combustion engine. Ever since the invention of the internal combustion engine, engineers have been searching for ways to develop and improve it.
Automobile engines produce power by burning fuel in cylinders. Air tends to enter each cylinder, and then mixes with the fuel before burning to make a small explosion that drives a piston out and as a consequence turns the shafts and gears that spin the vehicles wheels. The sheer amount of power a car produces is related to how fast it burns fuel. In essence, the number and size of cylinders determine the amount of fuel a vehicle can burn each second which impacts the performance, particularly speed. Instead of having numerous cylinders, a turbocharger is a deemed a better alternative since it forces more air into the cylinders each second so as to facilitate a higher fuel burn rate.
Since power is inversely proportionate to altitude gained, we use turbocharging because power diminishes with an increase in altitude. It is approximately 1 inch for every 1,000 feet of altitude which measures up to approximately 3 to 4 horsepower lost for every 1,000 feet gained. In order to increase air going into the induction at increased altitudes, we need a way to pump more air into the induction which is where turbocharging provides the additional mass of air required to boost an engine's power output.
Automobiles with turbochargers are safer because a turbo charged engine is capable of generating the power 7 times higher than its atmospheric, not charged counterpart. In standard conditions, a driver can double the power of atmospheric engine, making the car react faster to commands, making driving responsive and safer in general. Turbo charging also helps to prevent engine power drop along with increasing height above the sea.
Turbocharging is also economical. Turbo compressors use and process energy generated by gases leaving the engine, transforming it into power which makes charged engines much more fuel efficient. Because turbo compressor supply a relatively a larger amount of air to the engine, this results in more efficient combustion in the cylinder chamber and in turn diesel engines generate roughly less than half NOx and CO2 than traditional engines. Other advantages include high performance by small cubic capacity, small size for narrow installation conditions, higher torques by low speed ranges, lower noise level, and less specific fuel consumption.
How does Turbocharging work?
Turbocharging is actually a technology that was originally developed to be used in aircraft. Applying a turbocharger to an internal combustion engine of an automobile increases the power output of the engine, facilitating greater acceleration and increased top speeds. A turbocharger is a turbine-driven forced induction device that increases an internal combustion engine's efficiency and power output by forcing extra air into the combustion chamber.
The magic behind the functionality is how turbochargers increase a vehicle’s power-to-weight ratio through harnessing the exhaust from the engine. Turbochargers can also make an automobile more environmentally friendly simple because they output more power while consuming the same amount of fuel.
Think of the mechanism as simply an effective method of lowering an engine's fuel consumption while increasing its power output to fuel-burned ratio. Commonly, turbochargers have been used to improve vehicle performance but more and more people are using the technology to push the agenda for sustainable environmental practices within the automotive industry.
Turbochargers were initially known as turbosuperchargers when all forced induction devices were classified as superchargers. These days the term supercharger is typically associated with mechanically driven forced induction devices. The main difference between a turbocharger and a conventional supercharger is that a supercharger is mechanically driven by the engine, but a turbocharger on the other hand is powered by a turbine driven by the engine's exhaust gas.
In comparison, a mechanically driven supercharger tends to be more efficient, although usually less responsive. Twincharger implies an engine with both a supercharger and a turbocharger.
Selecting the right Turbocharger
Turbochargers tend to vary in sizes and specs. It is advisable to choose the smallest possible turbocharger that still provides the desired performance for a street vehicle due to what is normally referred to as turbo lag. Since the turbocharger is spun by exhaust fumes, there is a short time lapse between the moment the accelerator is depressed and the moment the turbocharger responds. This lag is caused by the presence of exhaust fumes in the system. For a turbocharger to spin and work to precision, exhaust fumes must first be present, then fill the turbine housing, and finally provide enough pressure to move the turbine. This problem is minimized with a small turbocharger because it takes less exhaust pressure to spin a smaller turbine.