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 density 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.
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 converts heat to rotational force, which is in turn used to drive the compressor. The compressor draws in ambient air and pumps it in to the intake manifold at increased pressure, resulting in a greater mass of air entering the cylinders on each intake stroke.
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.
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