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Intelligent Water Injection

Intelligent Water Injection

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Published by xLibelle

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Published by: xLibelle on Feb 25, 2009
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10/27/2013

 
Intelligent Intercooler Water Spray - Part 1
Developing the world's best DIY intercooler water spraycontrol system.
By Julian Edgar 
 
To not waste water while still being very effective, an intercooler water spray needs to be use an intelligent, adaptive-learn controlsystem. Here we background the development of the superb (and very cheap!) AutoSpeed / Labtronics intercooler water spraycontroller. But before we get into the nuts and bolts of the intercooler water spray, you gotta understand how an intercooler works inthe first place. Reckon you know that already? You might be surprised....
Intercooler Functioning
It seems straightforward enough. An intercooler acts as an air/air radiator for the intake air, cooling it after the compression of theturbo has caused it to get hot. The compressed air passes through the intercooler, losing its heat to the alloy fins and tubes thatform the intercooler core. This heat is immediately dissipated to the outside air that's being forced through it by the forwardmovement of the car. (We'll get to water/air systems in a moment.)The trouble with this analysis is that - for a road car - it is not entirely correct. Huh? So what actually happens, then?I've watched turbo engine intake air temperatures every day for the last 11 years. All have been displayed on digital gaugespermanently stuck to the dash of the six different turbo road cars that I have owned - a Commodore VL turbo, Daihatsu Mira turbo,Subaru Liberty (Legacy), C210 RB20DET Skyline, R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R, and an Audi S4. This list includes cars with boostpressures of up to 21 psi (the Mira), air/air intercoolers (GT-R, VL, S4) and water/air systems (Mira, Liberty, C210). And - irrelevantly- the list also includes turbo three, four, five and six cylinders! You might say that I've watched intake air temperature gauges onturbo road cars for more than a quarter of a million kilometres.So what?The reason for this build-up is that what follows is likely to be seen as incorrect by many people. For example, someone whomeasures intake air temps while running a turbo intercooled car for a power pull on a dyno, or who drives it around the block, or who sits back and simply theorises, is almost certain to think that what follows is wrong. But, it isn't.
Heat Sinks
In road cars, intercoolers act far more often as
heat sinks
rather than as
radiators
. Instead of thinking of an intercooler as beinglike the engine coolant radiator at the front of the car, it's far better to think of it as being like a heatsink inside a big sound systempower amplifier. If an electric fan cools the amplifier heatsink, you're even closer to the mark.In a sound system amp, the output power spikes are always much higher than the average power - for example, big output spikesare caused by the beat of a bass drum. Each time there's an output power spike, extra heat is generated by the output transistorsand dumped into the heatsink. But because the heatsink has a large thermal mass (it can absorb lots of heat with only a slighttemperature rise) the actual working temperature of the transistors doesn't increase much. And because the fan's hard at workblowing air over the heatsink, this inputted heat is then gradually transferred to the atmosphere, stopping the heatsink temp fromcontinuously rising.Importantly, because the power spike is just that (a spike, not a continuous high output signal), the heat that's just been dumpedinto the heatsink is dissipated to the air over a relatively long period.
This means that the heatsink does not have to get rid of the heat at the same rate at which it is being absorbed.
Now, take the case of a turbo road car. Most of the time in a turbo road car there's no boost occurring. In fact, even when you'redriving hard - say through the hills on a big fang - by the time you take into account braking times, gear-change times, trailingthrottle and so on, the 'on-full-boost' time is still likely to be less than fifty percent. In normal highway or urban driving, the 'on-full-boost' time is likely to be something less than 5 per cent!So the intercooler temperature (note:
not
the intake air temp, but the temp of the intercooler itself) is fairly close to ambient most of the time. You put your boot into it for a typical quick spurt, and the temperature of the air coming out of the turbo compressor rockets from (say) 40 degrees C to 100 degrees C. However, after it's passed through the intercooler, this air temp has dropped to(say) 55 degrees. Where's all the heat gone? Traditionalists would say that it's been transferred to the atmosphere through theintercooler (and some of it will have done just that) but for the most part, it's been put into the heatsink that's the intercooler. The
 
temperature of the alloy fins and tubes and end tanks will have risen a bit, because the heat's been stored in it. Just like in theamplifier heat sink. Then, over the next minute or so of no boost, that heat will be transferred from the intercooler heatsink to boththe outside air - and also to the intake air going into the engine.
Real Life Stuff 
All getting a bit complicated? OK, let's take a real-life example. In South Australia (where I live) there's a good, four lane road thatclimbs a very large hill (for locals - it's Willunga Hill). Many less powerful cars struggle at full throttle to crest the top of the hill at 110- 120 km/h. Others can manage only 80 or 90 km/h. My Skyline GT-R could top the hill at about 200 km/h, with full throttle and fullboost being used for perhaps the prior 30 seconds.(Only 30 seconds? Another point often forgotten in this debate is: how long can you hold full throttle in a turbo road car? Answer: inthe real world, not very long!)Using a quick-response K-Type thermocouple working with a high-speed digital LED dash meter, I could watch intake air temp,measured to one decimal place. From the bottom to top of the hill, the intake air temp
never 
rose by more than 2 degrees C, and insome cases, often actually fell a very small amount! However, after the top of the hill had been reached and the throttle was lifted,the intake air temp would then typically
rise
by 5 or even 10 degrees. Why? The stored heat was being dumped back into theengine's inlet air as well as to the atmosphere.In my Audi S4 (again equipped with a K-Type thermocouple intake air temp display), the smaller intercooler means that once over the top of the same hill, the intake air temp rises by a greater degree - an increase as high as 20 degrees C in fact.Another example. In my high-boost Mira Turbo I ran a water/air intercooling system. The water/air heat exchanger comprised ahighly modified ex-boat multi-tube copper heat exchanger, with a few litres of water in it. An electric pump circulated the water through a separate front-mounted cooling core. Intake air temp was measured using a thermistor and a dedicated LCD fast-response meter.In normal point-and-squirt urban driving,
the intake air temp remained the same with the intercooler pump switched either onor off!
Why? Because when the car was on boost, the heat was being dumped into the copper-tube-and-water heatsink, and whenthe car was off-boost, this heat was fed back into the (now cooler) intake air flow. Of course, if I was climbing a long hill (ie on boostfor perhaps more than 15 seconds) the pump needed to be operating to give the lowest intake air temps. But even in that tiny car,15 seconds of constant full boost would achieve over 160 km/h from a standstill...The latter shows why water/air intercooling in road cars is so successful - but why most race cars use air/air intercooling. Water hasa very high thermal mass, so easily absorbing the temp spikes caused by a road car's on/off boost driving. However, race-styleboost (say on full boost for 70 per cent of the time) means that the system has to start working far more as a real-time heat transfer mechanism - which is best done by very large air/air intercoolers.
The key point is that typical road car air/air and water/air intercooling systems act as heat sinks during boost periods at least as much as they act as heat transfer mechanisms.
Water Sprays
In a way the point being made inthis article is obvious. When you'retesting a car's intercooler, it'scommon to occasionally stop thetest and feel the temperature of thecore. If it's hot you know it isn'tworking very well. And that'sbecause you automatically realisethat it is primarily acting as aheatsink! If it was just a radiator,the hotter it was, the better it wouldexchange heat with the ambientair.....So, that's a pretty big prelude to the topic of intercooler water sprays, isn't it? But if you've been following along, you'll see thathaving a spray that switches on only when the engine's on boost is not very helpful. Why? Because you really want the intercooler core to be cooled
before
the engine comes on boost, giving a lower temperature heatsink into which more heat can be dumped.

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