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How do turbochargers work?

Air is a very critical component for the proper functioning of an automobile engine. In fact, its role in automobiles can be considered analogous to its criticality for a living creature, as for humans. The air is necessary for the respiration physiology, it can be considered that even the automobile engine needs air to breathe.

The modern automobile engine may rely on either of three primary methods for inhaling the air:- 

  1. Naturally aspirated air intake
  2. Turbocharged intake
  3. Supercharged intake

The Naturally aspirated unit, as the name suggests, it depends solely on the atmospheric pressure for oxygen intake and does not involve the use of any forced induction method. We will not be going into the details of the supercharged engine for this particular article and will be confining our discussion to the description of turbocharged engines only.

turbocharger function

What Is A Turbocharger?

For starters, it can typically be defined as a component, that harnesses the energy from the exhaust gases to compress the air, which is then fed into the combustion and larger power output is obtained.

For a proper burning of fuel, the presence of an appropriate amount of air is necessary, the installation of a turbocharger with an engine facilitates proper burning of the air-fuel mixture, which helps the engine in delivering better performance (due to increased efficiency). 

How Does A Turbocharger Work?

How Turbocharger works- turbocharger diagram

The exhaust (waste gases from the engine) at are higher temperature, not only their direct disposal causes harm to the environment, but it also means that a great deal of the engine’s power is lost in the heat of the exhaust gases. But not for a turbocharged engine unit. As in the case of a turbocharged engine, the exhaust gases are fed into a turbine (a device that produces rotational mechanical energy). The energy of the exhaust gases rotates the turbine which is connected to a compressor through a common shaft

While the exhaust gases are finally expelled after being fed to the turbine, the moving compressor sucks fresh air charge and the air that passes through it is compressed. The compression of air facilitates the intake of a larger volume of air, which in turn means the proper burning of compressed-air and fuel mixture takes place.

This compressed air, however, as it heats up, is not fed directly to the engine’s combustion chamber. An intercooler that is installed between the turbocharger and the engine cools the compressed air down before it can be fed to the engine.

How Turbocharger Produce Extra Power?

The turbocharger proves to be a great addition because it is not harnessing any power from the car’s crankshaft and wheels. It functions completely on the power of the exhaust gases (which anyway gets wasted), which helps it is compressing the air (as air is compressed more of it can be inhaled for a given volume of the engine) which finally translates into the extra amount of fuel being burnt (extra amount of fuel burned for excess air intake).

The extra power is sourced from the extra fuel burned and thus the turbocharged engine enables an ordinary engine to burn fuels at a faster rate and also more efficiently, helping the engine in raking up better power and economy figures.

Also Read: Why Are Only Diesel Engines Used In Heavy Motor Vehicles?