What is Supercharger and Turbocharger?

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In this post we are explaining two key words Supercharger and Turbocharger and will also make you understand the difference between them.

Brief History

  • 1st forced induction patent in 1885 to Gottlieb Daimler
  •  1st turbocharger patent given in 1905 to Alfred.
  • Installed on French WW1 fighter planes to limited success.
  • GE installed a turbocharger on a plane in 1918.
  • Began being used on diesels in the 1920s.


A turbocharger is fundamentally a centrifugal compressor driven by a turbine which is run by the exhaust gases or emission gases coming out of the IC 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.

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.

How turbochargers work-download (1)

  • They are used to increase the volumetric efficiency of the engine by increasing the air-fuel mixture entering the cylinder
  • The turbocharger housing contains a turbine and centrifugal air compressor on the same shaft
  • The exhaust leaving cylinder spins turbine
  • The compressor forces more air into the cylinder ▫ Compressor typically increases pressure by 6-8 psi, but it can be greater
  • Increased air pressure allows more fuel to burn
  • The compressed air is usually cooled to allow more air in the cylinder and to prevent knocking
  • The increase of 6-8 psi increases horsepower by 30- 40%


Turbocharger vs. Supercharger-

  • 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.

Applications –

▫ Aircraft and automobiles

▫ Air pressure is less at high altitudes, so there is less air in naturally aspirated engines


▫ This leads to less power

▫ Turbochargers will increase the pressure, reducing altitude induced power l

▫ Used on heavy trucks, ships, etc.

▫ Much better power:weight ratio than just putting in a larger engin



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