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Turbocharger Working principle

What's Turbocharger and Working principle

A turbocharger, or turbo, is a gas compressor used for forced-induction of an internal combustion engine. Like a supercharger, the purpose of a turbocharger is to increase the mass of air entering the engine to create more power. However, a turbocharger differs in that the compressor is powered by a turbine driven by the engine's own exhaust gases. The word turbo is derived from the Latin word turba, which in turn originates from the Greek word τύρβη that indicates bustle, whirl, turmoil, disorder or tumult.

Working principle

A turbocharger is a small radial fan pump driven by the energy of the exhaust gases of an engine. A turbocharger consists of a turbine and a compressor on a shared shaft. The turbine section of a turbocharger is a heat engine in itself. It converts the heat energy from the exhaust to power, which then drives the compressor, compressing ambient air and delivering it to the air intake manifold of the engine at higher pressure, resulting in a greater mass of air entering each cylinder. In some instances, compressed air is routed through an intercooler before introduction to the intake manifold. Because a turbocharger is a heat engine, and is converting otherwise wasted exhaust heat to power, it compresses the inlet air to the engine more efficiently than a supercharger.

The objective of a turbocharger is the same as a supercharger; to improve upon the size-to-output efficiency of an engine by solving one of its cardinal limitations. A naturally aspirated automobile engine uses only the downward stroke of a piston to create an area of low pressure in order to draw air into the cylinder through the intake valves. Because the pressure in the atmosphere is no more than 1 bar (approximately 14.7 psi), there ultimately will be a limit to the pressure difference across the intake valves and thus the amount of airflow entering the combustion chamber. This ability to fill the cylinder with air is its volumetric efficiency. Because the turbocharger increases the pressure at the point where air is entering the cylinder, a greater mass of air (oxygen) will be forced in as the inlet manifold pressure increases. The additional oxygen makes it possible to add more fuel, increasing the power and torque output of the engine.

Because the pressure in the cylinder must not go too high to avoid detonation and physical damage, the intake pressure must be controlled by controlling the rotational speed of the turbocharger. The control function is performed by a wastegate, which routes some of the exhaust flow away from the exhaust turbine. This controls shaft speed and regulates air pressure in the intake manifold.

The application of a compressor to increase pressure at the point of cylinder air intake is often referred to as forced induction. Centrifugal superchargers compress air in the same fashion as a turbocharger. However, the energy to spin the supercharger is taken from the rotating output energy of the engine's crankshaft as opposed to normally exhausted gas from the engine. Superchargers use output energy from an engine to achieve a net gain, which must be provided from some of the engine's total output. Turbochargers, on the other hand, convert some of the piston engine's exhaust into useful work. This energy would otherwise be wasted out the exhaust. This means that a turbocharger is a more efficient use of the heat energy obtained from the fuel than a supercharger.

Components

The turbocharger has four main components. The turbine (almost always a radial turbine) and impeller/compressor wheels are each contained within their own folded conical housing on opposite sides of the third component, the center housing/hub rotating assembly (CHRA).

The housings fitted around the compressor impeller and turbine collect and direct the gas flow through the wheels as they spin. The size and shape can dictate some performance characteristics of the overall turbocharger. Often the same basic turbocharger assembly will be available from the manufacturer with multiple housing choices for the turbine and sometimes the compressor cover as well. This allows the designer of the engine system to tailor the compromises between performance, response, and efficiency to application or preference. Twin-scroll designs have two valve-operated exhaust gas inlets, a smaller sharper angled one for quick response and a larger less angled one for peak performance.

The turbine and impeller wheel sizes also dictate the amount of air or exhaust that can be flowed through the system, and the relative efficiency at which they operate. Generally, the larger the turbine wheel and compressor wheel, the larger the flow capacity. Measurements and shapes can vary, as well as curvature and number of blades on the wheels. Variable geometry turbochargers are further developments of these ideas.

The center hub rotating assembly (CHRA) houses the shaft which connects the compressor impeller and turbine. It also must contain a bearing system to suspend the shaft, allowing it to rotate at very high speed with minimal friction. For instance, in automotive applications the CHRA typically uses a thrust bearing or ball bearing lubricated by a constant supply of pressurized engine oil. The CHRA may also be considered "water cooled" by having an entry and exit point for engine coolant to be cycled. Water cooled models allow engine coolant to be used to keep the lubricating oil cooler, avoiding possible oil coking from the extreme heat found in the turbine. The development of air-foil bearings has removed this risk.