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What is a Turbocharger And Supercharger?

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We often hear about new cars and engine technologies, we try to bring them to you through our dedicated technology articles. Today with this post we would like to explain you two of the most used terms, Supercharger and Turbocharger and will also make you understand the difference between them.

Before I start explaining each of them, let me just brief you on why they are actually implemented in cars and what is their purpose. Internal combustion engines i.e four stroke ones, produce a specific amount of horsepower but car lovers who wish to increase the performance of their vehicles, get Turbocharger or Supercharger on their engines. These devices act as as enhancers and increase the horsepower of the vehicle by almost 30 to 40%, thereby adding a lot more thrust.

Turbocharger

turbo

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Image Credit-Howstuffworks

A turbocharger is basically a centrifugal compressor driven by a turbine which is run by the exhaust gases or emission gases coming out of the your car’s engine. The compressor used in the construction compresses the air which is about to enter the engine, to high pressure. With increased pressure, the weight or amount of fuel entering the same space inside the engine is increased. In this way, the burning of fuel is more efficient inside the engine chamber and it eventually results in greater performance of the vehicle from the same displacement of engine without need of a larger displacement engine. For example, if you put 30% more fuel in the same engine cylinder, the burning of that fuel will produce about 30% more power from the same size of engine.

Supercharger

supercharger-6a

Image Credit-Howstuffworks

A supercharger is very much similar to a turbocharger with a compressor used for forcing high pressure air into the engine. The major difference being that in case of the supercharger, the engine itself runs the turbocharger whereas in turbocharger, the energy of escaping  exhaust gases or emission, which otherwise goes waste, is used to run the compressor. With more compressed air, more oxygen and fuel reaches the combustion chamber, hence more power is developed.

In general a supercharger and turbocharger are the same sort of arrangements but have a set of characteristics that distinguish the two.

Difference Between Supercharger & Turbocharger

  • Firstly the driving power of the two units is considered. The compressors in Superchargers are driven by the power taken directly from the engine whereas as mentioned above for driving a turbocharger unit the exhaust gases are used. Since the supercharger draws mechanical energy from the engine directly it is less efficient when compared to a turbocharger which uses the waste gas energy.
  • With this advantage of turbochargers over superchargers, the former are used where fuel economy is a concern i.e in many of the present cars, whereas the superchargers are employed in sports cars which are meant for faster speeds and not better economy.
  • Secondly a supercharger is easier to control in terms of the power output while the turbochargers are known for their dramatic rise in pressures and tremendously high working temperatures making them inherently more difficult to control at the time when they deliver the additional power.
  • Another important difference between the two is that since the supercharger is driven directly by the engine through belts, the response of the same is pretty instantaneous and a sudden increase in power is observed. On the other hand in turbochargers, exhaust gases control the drive and hence the system takes a bit of time before it it reaches the operating speed after opening the throttle which is also referred to as Turbo Lag.
  • Complexity in design is another factor and at this point turbocharger takes the lead with its compactness and require significantly less space. In contrast a supercharger is more difficult to adopt in a car and the modification is too time consuming as more space is needed for the same.
  • Expensiveness of the two is quite differentiating with the superchargers being more costly than a conventional turbocharger. Now a days all vehicle having either supercharger or turbocharger, are intercooled. Since the temperature of the compressed incoming air is high, an intercooler is used to cool this air making it more efficient in terms of combustion.

Hope the information we have provided is useful to you and does help you understand these technologies closely.

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