So I think there may be some people interested in this sort of information. I know there's another thread around (probably more than one...) regarding numbers, but I thought maybe those that have had superchargers (SC)s and/or turbos' installed, wouldn't mind sharing their results in a common Sticky so that those of us that are
interested have a resource that we can easily referrence.
I think it'd be nice to collect information such as what the brand/model is, how many psi. it's pushing, and any other mods' done on tha car for that given set-up. Graphs would be cool to share too, but I think it'd be nice to just have an "update-able" little database for crunching numbers.
I'll be looking for referrence information to describe what SC and Turbo' chargers actually do and how they influence engine power. Please feel free to share any information you may have so we can have as comprehensive a referrence as possible.
Since the invention of the internal combustion engine, automotive engineers, speed junkies and racecar designers have been searching for ways to boost its power. One way to add power is to build a bigger engine. But bigger engines, which weigh more and cost more to build and maintain, are not always better.
Another way to add power is to make a normal-sized engine more efficient. You can accomplish this by forcing more air into the combustion chamber. More air means more fuel can be added, and more fuel means a bigger explosion and greater horsepower. Adding a supercharger is a great way to achieve forced air induction. In this article, we'll explain what superchargers are, how they work and how they compare to turbochargers.
A supercharger is any device that pressurizes the air intake to above atmospheric pressure. Both superchargers and turbochargers do this. In fact, the term "turbocharger" is a shortened version of "turbo-supercharger," its official name.
The difference between the two devices is their source of energy. Turbochargers are powered by the mass-flow of exhaust gases driving a turbine. Superchargers are powered mechanically by belt- or chain-drive from the engine's crankshaft.
An ordinary four-stroke engine dedicates one stroke to the process of air intake. There are three steps in this process:
The piston moves down.
This creates a vacuum.
Air at atmospheric pressure is sucked into the combustion chamber.
Once air is drawn into the engine, it must be combined with fuel to form the charge -- a packet of potential energy that can be turned into useful kinetic energy through a chemical reaction known as combustion. The spark plug initiates this chemical reaction by igniting the charge. As the fuel undergoes oxidation, a great deal of energy is released. The force of this explosion, concentrated above the cylinder head, drives the piston down and creates a reciprocating motion that is eventually transferred to the wheels.
Getting more fuel into the charge would make for a more powerful explosion. But you can't simply pump more fuel into the engine because an exact amount of oxygen is required to burn a given amount of fuel. This chemically correct mixture -- 14 parts air to one part fuel -- is essential for an engine to operate efficiently. The bottom line: To put in more fuel, you have to put in more air.
That's the job of the supercharger. Superchargers increase intake by compressing air above atmospheric pressure, without creating a vacuum. This forces more air into the engine, providing a "boost." With the additional air in the boost, more fuel can be added to the charge, and the power of the engine is increased. Supercharging adds an average of 46 percent more horsepower and 31 percent more torque. In high-altitude situations, where engine performance deteriorates because the air has low density and pressure, a supercharger delivers higher-pressure air to the engine so it can operate optimally.
Unlike turbochargers, which use the exhaust gases created by combustion to power the compressor, superchargers draw their power directly from the crankshaft. Most are driven by an accessory belt, which wraps around a pulley that is connected to a drive gear. The drive gear, in turn, rotates the compressor gear. The rotor of the compressor can come in various designs, but its job is to draw air in, squeeze the air into a smaller space and discharge it into the intake manifold.
To pressurize the air, a supercharger must spin rapidly -- more rapidly than the engine itself. Making the drive gear larger than the compressor gear causes the compressor to spin faster. Superchargers can spin at speeds as high as 50,000 to 65,000 rotations per minute (RPM).
A compressor spinning at 50,000 RPM translates to a boost of about six to nine pounds per square inch (psi). That's six to nine additional psi over the atmospheric pressure at a particular elevation. Atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.7 psi, so a typical boost from a supercharger places about 50 percent more air into the engine.
As the air is compressed, it gets hotter, which means that it loses its density and can not expand as much during the explosion. This means that it can't create as much power when it's ignited by the spark plug. For a supercharger to work at peak efficiency, the compressed air exiting the discharge unit must be cooled before it enters the intake manifold. The intercooler is responsible for this cooling process. Intercoolers come in two basic designs: air-to-air intercoolers and air-to-water intercoolers. Both work just like a radiator, with cooler air or water sent through a system of pipes or tubes. As the hot air exiting the supercharger encounters the cooler pipes, it also cools down. The reduction in air temperature increases the density of the air, which makes for a denser charge entering the combustion chamber.
There are three types of superchargers: Roots, twin-screw and centrifugal. The main difference is how they move air to the intake manifold of the engine. Roots and twin-screw superchargers use different types of meshing lobes, and a centrifugal supercharger uses an impeller, which draws air in. Although all of these designs provide a boost, they differ considerably in their efficiency. Each type of supercharger is available in different sizes, depending on whether you just want to give your car a boost or compete in a race.
The Roots supercharger is the oldest design. Philander and Francis Roots patented the design in 1860 as a machine that would help ventilate mine shafts. In 1900, Gottleib Daimler included a Roots supercharger in a car engine.
As the meshing lobes spin, air trapped in the pockets between the lobes is carried between the fill side and the discharge side. Large quantities of air move into the intake manifold and "stack up" to create positive pressure. For this reason, Roots superchargers are really nothing more than air blowers, and the term "blower" is still often used to describe all superchargers.
Roots superchargers are usually large and sit on top of the engine. They are popular in muscle cars and hot rods because they stick out of the hood of the car. However, they are the least efficient supercharger for two reasons: They add more weight to the vehicle and they move air in discrete bursts instead of in a smooth and continuous flow.
A twin-screw supercharger operates by pulling air through a pair of meshing lobes that resemble a set of worm gears. Like the Roots supercharger, the air inside a twin-screw supercharger is trapped in pockets created by the rotor lobes. But a twin-screw supercharger compresses the air inside the rotor housing. That's because the rotors have a conical taper, which means the air pockets decrease in size as air moves from the fill side to the discharge side. As the air pockets shrink, the air is squeezed into a smaller space.
This makes twin-screw superchargers more efficient, but they cost more because the screw-type rotors require more precision in the manufacturing process. Some types of twin-screw superchargers sit above the engine like the Roots supercharger. They also make a lot of noise. The compressed air exiting the discharge outlet creates a whine or whistle that must be subdued with noise suppression techniques.
A centrifugal supercharger powers an impeller -- a device similar to a rotor -- at very high speeds to quickly draw air into a small compressor housing. Impeller speeds can reach 50,000 to 60,000 RPM. As the air is drawn in at the hub of the impeller, centrifugal force causes it to radiate outward. The air leaves the impeller at high speed, but low pressure. A diffuser -- a set of stationary vanes that surround the impeller -- converts the high-speed, low-pressure air to low-speed, high-pressure air. Air molecules slow down when they hit the vanes, which reduces the velocity of the airflow and increases pressure
Centrifugal superchargers are the most efficient and the most common of all forced induction systems. They are small, lightweight and attach to the front of the engine instead of the top. They also make a distinctive whine as the engine revs up -- a quality that may turn heads out on the street.
Any of these superchargers can be added to a vehicle as an after-market enhancement. Several companies offer kits that come with all of the parts necessary to install a supercharger as a do-it-yourself project. In the world of funny cars and fuel racers, such customization is an integral part of the sport. Several auto manufacturers also include superchargers in their production models.
The biggest advantage of having a supercharger is the increased horsepower. Attach a supercharger to an otherwise normal car or truck, and it will behave like a vehicle with a larger, more powerful engine.
But what if someone is trying to decide between a supercharger and a turbocharger? This question is hotly debated by auto engineers and car enthusiasts, but in general, superchargers offer a few advantages over turbochargers.
Superchargers do not suffer lag -- a term used to describe how much time passes between the driver depressing the gas pedal and the engine's response. Turbochargers suffer from lag because it takes a few moments before the exhaust gases reach a velocity that is sufficient to drive the impeller/turbine. Superchargers have no lag time because they are driven directly by the crankshaft. Certain superchargers are more efficient at lower RPM, while others are more efficient at higher RPM. Roots and twin-screw superchargers, for example, provide more power at lower RPM. Centrifugal superchargers, which become more efficient as the impeller spins faster, provide more power at higher RPM.
Installing a turbocharger requires extensive modification of the exhaust system, but superchargers can be bolted to the top or side of the engine. That makes them cheaper to install and easier to service and maintain.
Finally, no special shutdown procedure is required with superchargers. Because they are not lubricated by engine oil, they can be shut down normally. Turbochargers must idle for about 30 seconds or so prior to shutdown so the lubricating oil has a chance to cool down. With that said, a good warm-up is important for superchargers, as they work most efficiently at normal operating temperatures.
Superchargers are common additions to the internal combustion engines of airplanes. This makes sense when you consider that airplanes spend most of their time at high altitudes, where significantly less oxygen is available for combustion. With the introduction of superchargers, airplanes were able to fly higher without losing engine performance.
Superchargers used with aircraft engines work just like those found in cars. They draw their power directly from the engine and use a compressor to blow pressurized air into the combustion chamber. The illustration above shows the basic setup for a supercharged airplane.
The biggest disadvantage of superchargers is also their defining characteristic: Because the crankshaft drives them, they must steal some of the engine's horsepower. A supercharger can consume as much as 20 percent of an engine's total power output. But because a supercharger can generate as much as 46 percent additional horsepower, most think the trade-off is worth it.
Supercharging puts an added strain on the engine, which needs to be strong to handle the extra boost and bigger explosions. Most manufacturers account for this by specifying heavy-duty components when they design an engine intended for supercharged use. This makes the vehicle more expensive. Superchargers also cost more to maintain, and most manufacturers suggest high-octane premium-grade gas.
Despite their disadvantages, superchargers are still the most cost-effective way to increase horsepower. Superchargers can result in power increases of 50 to 100 percent, making them great for racing, towing heavy loads or just adding excitement to the typical driving experience.
When people talk about race cars or high-performance sports cars, the topic of turbochargers usually comes up. Turbochargers also appear on large diesel engines. A turbo can significantly boost an engine's horsepower without significantly increasing its weight, which is the huge benefit that makes turbos so popular!
In this article, we'll learn how a turbocharger increases the power output of an engine while surviving extreme operating conditions. We'll also learn how wastegates, ceramic turbine blades and ball bearings help turbochargers do their job even better. Turbochargers are a type of forced induction system. They compress the air flowing into the engine (see How Car Engines Work for a description of airflow in a normal engine). The advantage of compressing the air is that it lets the engine squeeze more air into a cylinder, and more air means that more fuel can be added. Therefore, you get more power from each explosion in each cylinder. A turbocharged engine produces more power overall than the same engine without the charging. This can significantly improve the power-to-weight ratio for the engine.
In order to achieve this boost, the turbocharger uses the exhaust flow from the engine to spin a turbine, which in turn spins an air pump. The turbine in the turbocharger spins at speeds of up to 150,000 rotations per minute (rpm) -- that's about 30 times faster than most car engines can go. And since it is hooked up to the exhaust, the temperatures in the turbine are also very high.
Turbochargers and Engines
One of the surest ways to get more power out of an engine is to increase the amount of air and fuel that it can burn. One way to do this is to add cylinders or make the current cylinders bigger. Sometimes these changes may not be feasible -- a turbo can be a simpler, more compact way to add power, especially for an aftermarket accessory.
Turbochargers allow an engine to burn more fuel and air by packing more into the existing cylinders. The typical boost provided by a turbocharger is 6 to 8 pounds per square inch (psi). Since normal atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi at sea level, you can see that you are getting about 50 percent more air into the engine. Therefore, you would expect to get 50 percent more power. It's not perfectly efficient, so you might get a 30- to 40-percent improvement instead.
One cause of the inefficiency comes from the fact that the power to spin the turbine is not free. Having a turbine in the exhaust flow increases the restriction in the exhaust. This means that on the exhaust stroke, the engine has to push against a higher back-pressure. This subtracts a little bit of power from the cylinders that are firing at the same time.
The turbocharger is bolted to the exhaust manifold of the engine. The exhaust from the cylinders spins the turbine, which works like a gas turbine engine. The turbine is connected by a shaft to the compressor, which is located between the air filter and the intake manifold. The compressor pressurizes the air going into the pistons.
The exhaust from the cylinders passes through the turbine blades, causing the turbine to spin. The more exhaust that goes through the blades, the faster they spin.
On the other end of the shaft that the turbine is attached to, the compressor pumps air into the cylinders. The compressor is a type of centrifugal pump -- it draws air in at the center of its blades and flings it outward as it spins.
In order to handle speeds of up to 150,000 rpm, the turbine shaft has to be supported very carefully. Most bearings would explode at speeds like this, so most turbochargers use a fluid bearing. This type of bearing supports the shaft on a thin layer of oil that is constantly pumped around the shaft. This serves two purposes: It cools the shaft and some of the other turbocharger parts, and it allows the shaft to spin without much friction.
There are many tradeoffs involved in designing a turbocharger for an engine. In the next section, we'll look at some of these compromises and see how they affect performance.
One of the main problems with turbochargers is that they do not provide an immediate power boost when you step on the gas. It takes a second for the turbine to get up to speed before boost is produced. This results in a feeling of lag when you step on the gas, and then the car lunges ahead when the turbo gets moving.
One way to decrease turbo lag is to reduce the inertia of the rotating parts, mainly by reducing their weight. This allows the turbine and compressor to accelerate quickly, and start providing boost earlier. One sure way to reduce the inertia of the turbine and compressor is to make the turbocharger smaller. A small turbocharger will provide boost more quickly and at lower engine speeds, but may not be able to provide much boost at higher engine speeds when a really large volume of air is going into the engine. It is also in danger of spinning too quickly at higher engine speeds, when lots of exhaust is passing through the turbine.
A large turbocharger can provide lots of boost at high engine speeds, but may have bad turbo lag because of how long it takes to accelerate its heavier turbine and compressor. Luckily, there are some tricks used to overcome these challenges.
Most automotive turbochargers have a wastegate, which allows the use of a smaller turbocharger to reduce lag while preventing it from spinning too quickly at high engine speeds. The wastegate is a valve that allows the exhaust to bypass the turbine blades. The wastegate senses the boost pressure. If the pressure gets too high, it could be an indicator that the turbine is spinning too quickly, so the wastegate bypasses some of the exhaust around the turbine blades, allowing the blades to slow down.
Some turbochargers use ball bearings instead of fluid bearings to support the turbine shaft. But these are not your regular ball bearings -- they are super-precise bearings made of advanced materials to handle the speeds and temperatures of the turbocharger. They allow the turbine shaft to spin with less friction than the fluid bearings used in most turbochargers. They also allow a slightly smaller, lighter shaft to be used. This helps the turbocharger accelerate more quickly, further reducing turbo lag.
Ceramic turbine blades are lighter than the steel blades used in most turbochargers. Again, this allows the turbine to spin up to speed faster, which reduces turbo lag.
Using Two Turbochargers & More Turbo Parts
Some engines use two turbochargers of different sizes. The smaller one spins up to speed very quickly, reducing lag, while the bigger one takes over at higher engine speeds to provide more boost.
When air is compressed, it heats up; and when air heats up, it expands. So some of the pressure increase from a turbocharger is the result of heating the air before it goes into the engine. In order to increase the power of the engine, the goal is to get more air molecules into the cylinder, not necessarily more air pressure.
An intercooler or charge air cooler is an additional component that looks something like a radiator, except air passes through the inside as well as the outside of the intercooler. The intake air passes through sealed passageways inside the cooler, while cooler air from outside is blown across fins by the engine cooling fan.
The intercooler further increases the power of the engine by cooling the pressurized air coming out of the compressor before it goes into the engine. This means that if the turbocharger is operating at a boost of 7 psi, the intercooled system will put in 7 psi of cooler air, which is denser and contains more air molecules than warmer air.
A turbocharger also helps at high altitudes, where the air is less dense. Normal engines will experience reduced power at high altitudes because for each stroke of the piston, the engine will get a smaller mass of air. A turbocharged engine may also have reduced power, but the reduction will be less dramatic because the thinner air is easier for the turbocharger to pump.
Older cars with carburetors automatically increase the fuel rate to match the increased airflow going into the cylinders. Modern cars with fuel injection will also do this to a point. The fuel-injection system relies on oxygen sensors in the exhaust to determine if the air-to-fuel ratio is correct, so these systems will automatically increase the fuel flow if a turbo is added.
If a turbocharger with too much boost is added to a fuel-injected car, the system may not provide enough fuel -- either the software programmed into the controller will not allow it, or the pump and injectors are not capable of supplying it. In this case, other modifications will have to be made to get the maximum benefit from the turbocharger.