The turbocharger (turbo) is simply a turbine-driven forced induction device that increases an internal combustion engine’s efficiency and power output. It does that by forcing extra compressed air into the combustion chamber.
So, basically, it’s just a turbine that pushes the air into the combustion changer and makes the engine perform better.
Turbochargers are not really a new concept…
Forced induction was patented back in the late 19th century by Gottlieb Daimler when he used the gear-driven pump to force air into an internal combustion engine.
The idea of turbocharging was introduced by Alfred Buchi who used a compressor driven by exhaust gases to force air into an internal combustion engine to increase power output. It took him and his colleagues about 20 years for his idea to come to functional realization.
The first use of his technology was for large marine engines but later was adopted for the aviation and automotive purposes.
How does it really work?
The turbocharger (turbo) uses the exhaust gas to drive a turbine. This exhaust gas flow spins an air compressor that actually pushes the air into the cylinders. As more compressed air is added to the cylinders, the cylinders can burn more fuel and produce more power.
A bit longer version:
According to the US Patent #7,946,118 , this is how it works:
- Cool air enters the engine’s air intake and heads toward the compressor.
- The compressor fan sucks the air in.
- The compressor compresses and heats up the incoming air and pushes it out.
- Compressed air then passes through the heat exchanger which lower’s it’s heat level.
- Cooled, compressed air enters the cylinder’s air intake. The extra oxygen that is provided in the process helps to burn fuel in the cylinder at a faster rate.
- This way, the cylinder produces energy more quickly and can output more power.
- Waste gas from the cylinder exits through the exhaust outlet.
- The hot exhaust gases that flow past the turbine fan make it rotate at high speed.
- The spinning turbine is mounted on the same shaft as the compressor. So, as the turbine spins the compressor spins too.
- The exhaust gas finally leaves the car.
Turbocharger (turbo) vs the Supercharger
The supercharger is actually quite similar to a turbocharger (turbo). But, it is powered from the car’s spinning crankshaft instead of exhaust gasses using a turbine.
The main difference being that that a superchargers actually takes some energy away from the vehicle’s own power source to create more power.
Want to learn more?
If you want to learn more about this topic, I’d suggest you to read these articles as well: