Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions: Part 3 – The Turbocharger

One of the 50 turbos used on Spaceball One
One of the 50 turbos used on Spaceball One

I hope you are all enjoying this series as much as I am… I love learning more information about things I have a great passion for. Not to mention how much I enjoy finding these excellent old-school videos. They remind me of a time when I would sit and watch Goofy learn something new. Today we are going to learn more about our exhaust-gas loving friend, the turbocharger.


[Source: Youtube]

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  1. PowerTryp Avatar

    It's offical, I can think of absolutly no automotive application that would be able to power or hold that turbo. Congrats Braff, I thought I could put any turbo on any car but you've managed to stump me.

    1. aSoundofSleep Avatar

      Clearly, you just aren't thinking hard enough then. 🙂

    2. SeanKHotay Avatar
      SeanKHotay

      Pretty sure that’s a centrifugal compressor used to compress gas (air usually but certainly other gases) for industrial applications. Used to feed blast furnaces, massive welding operations, commercial manufacturing operations, etc…
      Was offered a job two years ago with one of the largest suppliers of those (Atlas-Copco) but that operation was the biggest CF…

    3. FЯeeMan Avatar

      Earth moving machinery or trans-oceanic ships.

      1. PowerTryp Avatar

        Nice but hard to use on the road.

  2. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    I do love this series, thank you very much
    Question: They mention how the supercharge is parasitic on engine power, which I fully understand. What they don't mention, is how much resistance is added to the exhaust from a turbo charger, and how that hp drain compares to the supercharger.
    and a follow up Question: If, as this video describes, the Turbo is much more efficient (which I'm not doubting) then why would anyone use a supercharger? All I can think of is packaging differences? Cost? Anyone?
    Reducing turbo lag is another cool talking point, but I'll leave this post to my 2 questions!
    And thanks in advance for those much more knowledgeable then I am, and for their helpfulness to explain to me!

    1. aSoundofSleep Avatar

      A supercharger is going to use more power because it's adding another pulley/belt to the engine. This is the same reason that if you're really concerned about power you take out the A/C, power steering, etc. The power you lose on a turbo from back pressure in the exhaust is much less than having the engine try to drive another belt. Have you ever tried to turn a supercharger by hand (not installed on an engine)? There is a large amount of rotational resistance in doing so, the bigger the super charger, the harder it is to turn.
      Superchargers were, not necessarily now, more reliable than turbos. They had less moving parts and were much much simpler systems to install. Larger displacement V8s have always benefited from superchargers because the power gain from the extra air far outweighed the power loss from another pulley. Also being cheaper and easier to install that's why most of them stuck around. But for raw power, turbos are the only way to go.
      Did I answer everything or did I just ramble for a couple minutes?

      1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

        I think you got it! thanks!
        I've never spun a supercharger by hand, so I think what i was missing was answered by what you said here: "The power you lose on a turbo from back pressure in the exhaust is much less than having the engine try to drive another belt"
        I think it was mentioned somewhere before, but how about an electrically driven forced induction system? No back pressure, no parasitic engine draw, just perhaps added demand from the alternator and increased cycling to the battery for those boosts of power.
        Now adays, vehicles can do "load shedding" and turn off all non-essential electrical accessories, to minimize alternator size and demand….. so maybe the additional load from an electrically driven 'air pump' wouldn't be too bad.
        Now I think I'm just rambling.

        1. aSoundofSleep Avatar

          I think I would have to do some research but I would by lying if I said I haven't heard of an electric turbo charger. Hey, the leaf blower ones work in LeMons, so why not real life?
          At the end of the day it comes down to the fact that the amount of electrical power required to run a turbine for that long far outweighs a little extra back pressure. The nice thing about an electric one would be no turbo lag but I just don't think the technology is there yet. Possibly, if some car company was cool enough *cough* Toyota *cough* they could integrate a hybrid turbo setup on a Prius using it's battery cells to power a smaller turbine. I still don't see it being as efficient as the current exhaust set-ups. We're talking about a ton of constant electricity to run a turbine at those speeds.

          1. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

            Electric blowers in cars are much closer than you think. And I am talking mainstream applications.

          2. aSoundofSleep Avatar

            Really? I haven't heard of any recent configurations. It has potential I just didn't know that technology has caught up with the idea yet. In essence, if you're able to electrically power one through a reasonable means (larger alternator) that takes almost all strain off the engine. It's always been one of those "in theory" things. More power to whoever can make it work, literally and figuratively.

          3. SeanKHotay Avatar

            FTGD is right, a lot of the hurdles with electric supercharging are being surmounted as we speak. I was surprised when I looked into is a few months ago…
            The real trick is the overcoming/minimizing the power draw…

          4. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

            They are probably similar to the hurdles that they had to clear when electric power steering was implemented. I'd be surprised if we didn't see this in near future models!

          5. SeanKHotay Avatar

            Actually, while there is increased power draw with electric steering, it's almost an order of magnitude less than electric supercharging.
            Based on my old employer's work (which was admittedly half fast at times), the biggest hurdles with electric steering were (and, to an extent, still are) new bearing technology, reversible motor longevity/'feel' tunability, and some intricate mechanisms.

          6. SeanKHotay Avatar

            Actually, while there is increased power draw with electric steering, it's almost an order of magnitude less than electric supercharging.
            Based on my old employer's work (which was admittedly half fast at times), the biggest hurdles with electric steering were (and, to an extent, still are) new bearing technology, reversible motor longevity/'feel' tunability, and some intricate mechanisms.

          7. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

            …but since it would be controlled electronically, it would only be needed when, say throttle position was above 50% or something like that. Of course to ruin the fun of the power slamming in like that, it'd have to be gradually turned on, but I guess the point being, it wouldn't need to run constantly, and when not running, would provide zero drain on the engine and zero back pressure to the exhaust.
            In my mind, Toyota will never be cool enough, and I never want to see a Prius trying to accelerate quickly. A Fusion hybrid, now that's another story, that looks like a car that would like to run fast, so maybe Ford should implement instead of Toyota.
            (disclaimer, dedicated Ford fan here)

      2. SeanKHotay Avatar

        Just thought of a good analogy for both questions.
        Think of turbos as pushing a cue/snooker ball with a spring.
        Think of superchargers as pushing that cue/snooker ball with a short stick.

        Make better sense?
        If my answer ever shows up, add it to that…

        1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

          I appreciate the attempt, but I don't get the analogy.

          1. SeanKHotay Avatar

            If you push the cue ball with a short stick, you can push it the length of your arm plus the short stick.
            Is you push the cue ball with a spring, the spring compresses before it starts to move the ball (i.e., lag).
            Once you push it the length of your arm+ the compressed spring, the spring will still extend further as it uncompresses, going further than it's original length. [goiiing]
            Simplistic but hopefully gets the idea across. Yes?

          2. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

            now I understand, I was thinking a stiff spring, that wasn't compressing as the cue ball was pushed. Thanks!

      3. fasteryabastard Avatar

        One other thing; before twin-scroll turbos and twin turbos came along to pretty much eliminate turbo lag superchargers were a more predictable source of horsepower. Nothing like going around a bend, feeding in the throttle and suddenly having a major jump in horsepower before your wheel is straight. Woo-hoo! The 911 Turbo earned the moniker 'Widowmaker' honestly.

      4. Alff Avatar

        In the early days of mass-produced turbocharged passenger cars, heat was also problematic. Few (if any) turbos of the '70's were intercooled, leading to frequent failures.

    2. SeanKHotay Avatar
      SeanKHotay

      To add onto aSoS’ answer:
      A to Q1: Why Turbo more efficient? As the exhaust gases are compressible, extra work being done on it due to the turbo is partially recovered as it goes thru the turbo, expanding against the impeller vanes. There’s no such recovery with superchargers.
      I’d need to crack open the books and get all equation-y to explain more. Maybe someone can expand on what I said more simply and completely…
      A to Q2: Why use a SuperCharger at all? Immediate response, better for low rpm torque. Also due to the compressibility vs hard part difference btwn turbos and superchargers.
      How’d I do?

    3. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

      What you need ideally my friend is a twin charging set up like the one on VW TFSI. 1 S/C – Takes care of low (rev) end boost, de-couples from mid rev range (so no drag) ; 1 T/C – Comes into play at med-high revs, decouples at low revs (so no drag).
      Bonus: Both come into play in WOT situations = Twin Boost! = More grin!
      All this implies, smaller downsized engine = More MPGs at normal driving! = Still fun when you want it! = win, win!

  3. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Gotta love compressor turbines. I'm guessing this is either for a gas pipeline or for compressing gasses in some sort of chemical process.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      What would power that monster? Some kind of gigantic gas turbine engine, or a huge steam boiler?

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        I'm told it's usually a gas turbine.

  4. find freelance writing jobs Avatar

    Ha!Hey!Hah!. That’s funny. That’s the second time I’ve come acrosssomething like that. interesting.

  5. Mikel Repetowski Avatar

    Well, I agree with what you posted, but only up to a point. Regardless, it’s all good material. Good stuff!

  6. Chanell Howryla Avatar

    Are you kidding me? I’m not sure I can support what you believe. But I will certainly be back to see what else you have soon.

  7. Tommy Merk Avatar

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