Turbo Engine Explained: How a Turbocharged Engine Works

Turbochargers are air compressors powered by the exhaust gases of engines. By sucking in more air, this compressor allows the engine to burn more fuel without adding more displacement. An aircraft turbocharger is one of the most convenient applications of turbochargers. A plane’s engine will produce less power as it reaches higher altitudes because the air density decreases with altitude. The solution to this problem is turbochargers.

When an aircraft engine is turbocharged, more air is pushed into it than would normally be possible at high altitudes, solving the problem of engine power loss. The performance of turbocharged engines is better at high altitudes, just as that of naturally-aspirated (NA) plane engines.

What is a Turbocharger?

An engine turbocharger enhances a vehicle’s performance and efficiency by improving the efficiency and power of its engine. Turbocharging is a popular choice among auto manufacturers due to this reason. With time, more and more vehicles will be equipped with turbocharged engines, including the new Chevrolet Trax and Equinox.  

How does a turbocharger work?

Essentially, a turbocharger is a kind of air pump that takes air at ambient pressure, compresses it to a higher pressure, and then passes it into the engine through inlet valves. As a means of boosting performance, turbochargers have historically been used on diesel engines in cars and vans, but for ever-tighter emissions controls, petrol engines are now being turbocharged as well.

We know an increase in air and fuel within set limits will increase the power of an engine. However, if we increase the fuel, we must be able to burn it off or the mixture becomes overrich, which can have various problems. Likewise, running too lean is quite destructive when there is too much air.

We require air to meet our power requirements; adding more air presents more problems than adding fuel. In combination with the induction stroke of the engine, air is forced into the cylinders by the pressure of air surrounding us all the time (at sea level this pressure is about 15 p.s.i.). Additional compressed air is blown into the engine using an air pump (turbocharger). Combined with the injected fuel, this air allows the fuel to burn more efficiently, increasing engine output.

It may also be interesting to consider turbocharging in engines that work regularly at high altitudes, where air is less dense and turbocharging can help restore some of the power lost. When an engine is operating at 8,000 feet, its power is only 75 percent of its power at sea level.

The capture process

Combustion gases flow to the turbocharger instead of escaping through the exhaust pipe. When cylinders in an internal combustion engine fire sequentially (not all at once), exhaust exits the combustion chamber irregularly. These irregular pulses of exhaust are routed into the turbine with conventional single-scroll turbochargers, causing them to collide and interfere with one another, reducing their strength. Twin-scroll turbochargers, on the other hand, gather exhaust from pairs of cylinders alternately.

The spinner

Approximately 150,000 rpm are reached when exhaust strikes turbine blades. Turbo lag is reduced by the alternation of exhaust pulses.


Once exhaust gases have served their purpose, they pass through an outlet to a catalytic converter, where they are scrubbed of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and other pollutants.

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