What Are Turbosuperchargers and How Do They Function?

When operating aircraft in high altitudes in which air pressure is low, engines must be able to compress air in order to provide optimal combustion for propulsion. This is because oxygen is less dense in the air at higher altitudes, causing aircraft engines to function with lower performance than they would when closer to sea level. With an externally driven supercharger, commonly known as a turbosupercharger, the carburetor or control unit is supplied with compressed air for combustion. As a result, aircraft are able to reach better efficiency despite their surrounding atmospheric air pressure, and this allows them to operate at much higher altitudes without fail.

At their most basic, a turbosupercharger assists the performance of an engine through the compression of intake air that is supplied to cylinders. By compressing air, pressures can be increased upwards of three times, allowing for the engine to perform as if it was at sea level. To do this, turbochargers utilize a turbine, compressor, and a connecting shaft that each work together to provide the system’s functionality.

As exhaust is expelled from the engine after the combustion of fuel, gases are forced through the blades of the turbosupercharger turbine wheel assembly. Through the forces of the exhaust gas, the turbine wheels begin to spin rapidly. With a shaft and shaft bearing assembly, the turbine and compressor are both attached to one another. As a result, the revolution of the turbine wheel assembly also causes the compressor assembly to spin as well. Within the compressor assembly, air from the atmosphere is drawn in and compressed, and then it is transferred to the engine for combustion.

While increasing the manifold pressure of an aircraft engine is very beneficial for operations at high altitudes, failsafes are also in place to ensure that an excess amount of pressurized air is not supplied to the engine. With too much air, the engine can either be damaged or destroyed, so a wastegate is put in place to expel excess air. Wastegates are sections in which open and close as to regulate the amount of the exhaust that passes through the turbine, ensuring that it does not exceed safe speeds. Wastegates are generally operated automatically, though some may require manual control from the pilot.

The amount of air that an aircraft engine can handle typically depends on the type of engine, though the type of turbocharging implemented will have an effect as well. One type of turbocharging, known as altitude turbocharging, is the method that ensures the engine continues operation as if it was at sea level. While it is able to accommodate a wide range of altitudes, there is a critical altitude at which a turbocharger will not be able to create enough pressure for optimal combustion. While still performing better than a normally aspirated engine, exceeding critical altitude will result in less horsepower for propulsion and speed.

Ground boosting is the other main form of turbocharging, and it utilizes increased pressure that is above that typically seen at sea level. As a result, such engines are capable of producing increased amounts of horsepower for greater performance, that of which may benefit select aircraft for varying applications. Despite this advantage, such methods of turbocharging produce a great amount of heat that must be dispelled to protect the turbocharger. Within many turbochargers, intercoolers are implemented in order to mitigate extreme temperatures for protection.

Altogether, superturbochargers can prove to be highly beneficial for a number of aircraft and their operations due to increasing air pressure. If you are in need of a compressor assembly, shaft bearing assembly, bearing casing, or shields for your aircraft, let the experts at Complete Sourcing Solutions help you secure everything you need with competitive pricing and rapid lead-times. As a premier distributor of parts, we operate as an FAA AC 00-56B, AS9120B, and ISO 9001:2015 certified enterprise. Get started today and see how we can serve as your strategic sourcing partner.


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