A supercharger is a component that works by providing more air, which is forced into the engine,in order to create more power. The higher air flow means that there is more oxygen in the engine, which provides for a more intense combustion than a naturally aspirated engine would have. More fuel is used by the engine,in order to match the air increase, which allows the engine to do more work. Superchargers get their power from a belt, gear, or shaft which is connected to the engines crankshaft. Using the crankshaft to run the supercharger will decrease the engine's power by about 20%, however it is easily compensated by the large amounts of power created, which can be as much as 46%.
A supercharger and engine work together when the piston in a cylinder moves down. Air is sucked into the open chamber of the cylinder once the piston is at the bottom of the cylinder. Fuel is mixed in with this air before the piston starts to make its way, back up the cylinder. As the piston makes its way up, the air and fuel mixture is compressed and ignited which causes combustion. The supercharger provides more air into the cylinder in between strokes, which will increase the amount of power combustion will create.
To create the high pressure air, the supercharger must spin faster than the engine itself. This is done by making the drive gear larger than the compressor gear which causes the compressor to spin faster. Some superchargers can spin at speeds of up to 65,000 rpm.
There are two types of superchargers which are both defined, according to the method of compression. The first of these two superchargers is called a positive displacement supercharger. This type of supercharger pumps a fixed volume of air into the engine at all speeds. This device divides the air mechanically into parcels before it is delivered to the engine. This causes the air to be delivered to the engine bit by bit. Positive displacement superchargers are typically rated by the capacity per revolution they can handle. Positive displacement superchargers use pumps like the G-Lader, roots, lysholm twin-screw, and the sliding vane.
Positive displacement pumps are also divided into internal compression, and external compression types. External compression pumps transfer air at ambient pressure, into the engine. If the engine is under boost conditions, the pressure in the intake manifold is higher than that coming from the supercharger. This causes a backflow between the engine and the supercharger until the two reach equilibrium. The backflow is what actually compresses the incoming gas, and causes the system to be highly inefficient.
Internal compression pumps refer to the compression of air in the supercharger itself, which is already close to boost level. This means that air can be delivered smoothly to the engine with little or no back flow. This method is more effective than back flow compression and allows for higher efficiency to be achieved. Internal compression pumps usually have a fixed internal compression ratio. As boost pressure levels out to that of the compression pressure of the supercharger, the back flow will be zero. If boost pressure exceeds the compression pressure, back flow may occur,which is why internal compression blowers must be matched to the expected boost pressure, in order to achieve the higher efficiency they are capable of.
The second type of supercharger is defined according to the method of compression, as a dynamic compressor. This type of supercharger relies on accelerating the air to high speed, and then exchanging that velocity for pressure by diffusing, or slowing it down. The main types of dynamic compressors are the Centrifugal, Multi-stage axial-flow, and the Pressure wave supercharger. Dynamic compressor superchargers are commonly used as an aftermarket supercharger because they are easily integrated and installed on most engines with minimal work.
Superchargers can also be defined by their method of drive. Some of these different methods of driving the supercharger include; direct drive, gear drive, bets, chain drive, axial turbine, and radial turbine. Some superchargers may also use an electrical motor or auxiliary power unit to operate, which would decrease power loss when connecting the engine for power.
Because superchargers work by compressing air, temperature may become an issue because the temperature of air increases as it is pressurized. Since the temperature of the air is a huge component in the performance of an engine, it is vitally important to keep that compressed air temperature down. Extreme temperatures can also cause the fuel and air mixture to detonate, which can cause engine damage. Temperature can be an issue especially on vehicles that are running in hot weather, or when large amounts of boost are being pushed. There are several ways to keep the compressed air cool. Some of these methods include intercoolers, aftercoolers, anti-detonate injection and two-stage superchargers.
Fuel octane rating is also an important factor in the operation and performance of a supercharger. Lower octane levels mean that the fuel is easily detonated. Having a high octane rated fuel in a supercharged engine allows for more boost to be used, without the chance of an early detonation. This is why higher octane rated fuels are used in many high performance vehicles.
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