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Turbocharger Engine Combinations

By Firas Balghonaim

o What is a turbocharger?
A turbocharger is a mechanical device that is actuated by the exhaust pulses of an engine. It uses heat primarily and back pressure secondarily from the engines exhaust to spin a turbine wheel. The turbine wheel is connected to a compressor wheel that pressurizes are into the combustion chambers from the intake side. This cycle is used to achieve positive pressure ratios generated by the compressor wheel.

o How is the proper compressor wheel chosen for a given engine?

The compressor wheel selection is a very important part of engine assembly regardless of the nature of the application, whether it is for a factory street car or a high power track set-up. A compressor that is too large for a certain engine will sacrifice low end torque and will surge. Compressor Surge: When an engine cannot process the volume of air the compressor is pressurizing. The air travels backwards from the throttle body into the compressor again, decreasing efficiency tremendously. A compressor that is impractically larger than an engines capacity will not only surge, but if too large will not generate positive pressure ratios unless the engine is revved to dangerously high RPMs. On the other hand if a compressor is too small for a certain engine, the engine will choke the compressor. This, as well, will hurt efficiency tremendously. Compressor Choke: When an engine outperforms a compressor by processing its pressurized air at a faster rate than the compressor can keep up with. This usually happens with larger engines paired with smaller turbochargers. When compressor choke occurs, the compressor wheel would be generating low flow rates at low efficiencies and high pressures. Therefore, compressor maps have been used to determine the best turbocharger-engine combinations.

o What is a compressor map?

Compressor maps are graphs that are generated by plotting a 4 dimensional map that includes the following variables: i) ii) iii) iv) Compressor wheel speed. Pressure ratio. Flow rate. Efficiency (temperature generation)

The following is an example of a compressor map. It is the map of a Garrett brand GT4294R turbocharger, typically used for high performance race applications on small engines, or for bigger diesels engines used in towing and hauling heavy loads. The kidney shaped geometries in the graph are called efficiency islands, the greatest efficiency island being the center one. The vertical axis holds the pressure ratio values. The horizontal axis holds the flow rate values. Compressor speed and efficiency (heat generation) values are on the right side of the efficiency islands. Surge Line Compressor map information is generated by sensor readings. The compressor is equipped with a pressure sensor before the inducer and after the exducer, a temperature sensor, a shaft speed sensor, and an air flow sensor. Then, the compressor is spun gradually to over 100,000 RPM. At the time the compressor is rotating, the data collection takes place, and eventually the result is a complete compressor map.

Choke Line

o How to relate an engines airflow to a compressor map?

Engines, like turbochargers, move air. The characteristics of an engines airflow, however, are different from those of a turbochargers. So, in order to relate the two and compare, the engines airflow map maybe superimposed onto the compressor map (considering they share the same parameters air pressure vs. air flow). If the engines airflow lines do not make it to the surge line (left of the surge line on the graph), then the engine is much too small for the turbocharger compressor, or it is not revving at a high enough RPM to enter the compressors highest efficiency range. If the engines airflow lines surpass the compressors choke line (to the right of the choke line on the graph), then the motor is either too large for the turbocharger or it is being revved at a higher than efficient RPM. In order to fix this, the engines RPM redline must be retarded with the amount of retardation depending on how far off the choke line the airflow lines are. A perfect match between a turbocharger and an engine should manifest in engine airflow lines that pass right through the highest efficiency zone of the compressor map.

Engine too small

Engine too large

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