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DieselNet Technology Guide Intake Air Management for Diesel Engines Copyright Ecopoint Inc. Revision 2016.08

Turbocharger Fundamentals
Hannu Jskelinen, Magdi K. Khair

Abstract: Turbochargers are centrifugal compressors driven by an exhaust gas turbine and
employed in engines to boost the charge air pressure. Turbocharger performance influences all
important engine parameters, such as fuel economy, power, and emissions. It is important to
understand a number of fundamental concepts before moving on to a more detailed discussion of
turbocharger specifics.

Turbocharger Construction
Turbocharger Compressor
Basic Principles of Compression Process
Compressor Maps
Turbocharger Turbine

Turbine Energy Extraction

Turbine Performance

1. Turbocharger Construction

A turbocharger consists of a compressor wheel and exhaust gas turbine wheel coupled together
by a solid shaft and that is used to boost the intake air pressure of an internal combustion engine.
The exhaust gas turbine extracts energy from the exhaust gas and uses it to drive the compressor
and overcome friction. In most automotive-type applications, both the compressor and turbine
wheel are of the radial flow type. Some applications, such as medium- and low- speed diesel
engines, can use an axial flow turbine wheel instead of a radial flow turbine. The flow of gases
through a typical turbocharger with radial flow compressor and turbine wheels is shown in
Figure 1 [Schwitzer 1991]. 25.08.2016
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Figure 1. Turbocharger construction and flow of gases

(Source: Schwitzer)

Center-Housing. The turbine-compressor common shaft is supported by a bearing system in the

center housing (bearing housing) located between the compressor and turbine (Figure 2). The
shaft wheel assembly (SWA) refers to the shaft with the compressor and turbine wheels
attached, i.e., the rotating assembly. The center housing rotating assembly (CHRA) refers to
SWA installed in the center-housing but without the compressor and turbine housings. The
center housing is commonly cast from gray cast iron but aluminum can also be used in some
applications. Seals help keep oil from passing through to the compressor and turbine.
Turbochargers for high exhaust gas temperature applications, such a spark ignition engines, can
also incorporate cooling passages in the center housing. 25.08.2016
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Figure 2. Sectional view of turbocharger

Sectional view of an exhaust gas turbocharger for a gasoline engine showing compressor
wheel (left) and turbine wheel (right). The bearing system consists of a thrust bearing and
two fully floating journal bearings. Note the cooling passages.
(Source: BorgWarner)

Bearings. The turbocharger bearing system appears simple in design but it plays a key role in a
number of critical functions. Some of the more important ones include: the control of radial and
axial motion of the shaft and wheels and the minimization of friction losses in the bearing
system. Bearing systems have received considerable attention because of their influence on
turbocharger friction and its impact on engine fuel efficiency.

With the exception of some large turbochargers for low-speed engines, the bearings that support
the shaft are usually located between the wheels in an overhung position. This flexible rotor
design ensures that the turbocharger will operate above its first, and possibly second, critical
speeds and can therefore be subject to rotor dynamic conditions such as whirl and synchronous

Seals. Seals are located at both ends of the bearing housing. These seals represent a difficult
design problem due to the need to keep frictional losses low, the relatively large movements of
the shaft due to bearing clearance and adverse pressure gradients under some conditions.

These seals primarily serve to keep intake air and exhaust gas out of the center housing. The
pressures in the intake and exhaust systems are normally higher than in the turbochargers
center housing which is typically at the pressure of the engine crankcase. As such, they would
primarily be designed to seal the center housing when the pressure in the center housing is lower
than in the intake and exhaust systems. These seals are not intended to be the primary means of
preventing oil from escaping from the center housing into the exhaust and air systems. Oil is
usually prevented from contacting these seals by other means such as oil deflectors and rotating
flingers. 25.08.2016
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Turbocharger seals are different from the soft lip seals normally found in rotating equipment
operating at much lower speeds and temperatures. The piston ring type seal is one type that is
often used. It consists of a metal ring, similar in appearance to a piston ring. The seal remains
stationary when the shaft rotates. Labyrinth-type seals are another type sometimes used.
Generally turbocharger shaft seals will not prevent oil leakage if the pressure differential
reverses such that the pressure in the center housing is higher than in the intake or exhaust

2. Turbocharger Compressor

A radial flow compressor stage is composed of two sections, the impeller or wheel and the
cover or housing, Figure 3. Filtered air enters through the center of the compressor cover and
proceeds through the inducer into the inducer (1) of the compressor wheel. As air proceeds
through the compressor wheel it makes a 90 turn thus changing its flow from an axial to a
radial direction. Air exits the compressor wheel at the exducer (2), enters a narrow stationary
diffuser and then passes through to a volute or scroll from which it is discharged from the

Trailing edge
2" 2'
Diffuser Shroud edge
Hub edge
2 Leading edge


Figure 3. Cross section of radial flow compressor

Compressor Wheel. The critical components of the compressor wheel are the blades. These
blades have three regions:

a. the leading edge is a sharp pitch helix designed for scooping air in and moving it axially;
b. blades are curved to change the direction of the airflow from axial to radial and at the
same time to accelerate it to a high velocity; 25.08.2016
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c. blades terminate in a trailing edge which is designed to propel air radially out of the
compressor wheeldefined by pitch, angle offset from radial and/or back taper or back

The shape of the compressor blade profile from the impeller inlet to the outlet can significantly
impact performance and durability. Generating an appropriate shape can be a compromise
between manufacturing cost and compressor performance. A significant development in
manufacturing of compressor impellers was the extension of flank milling (milling with the side
of the cutter) to the production of arbitrary surfaces [Wu 1986]. Previously, flank milling was
limited to the production of ruled surfacessurfaces that were defined by a limited number of
curves and arbitrary surfaces required the use of point milling (milling with the tip of the cutter)
a very time consuming and costly process for volume production. Arbitrary surfaces allow the
blade profile to be tailored more precisely to the demands of the flow to provide better
performance and durability rather than the need to limit the surface to a few well defined
mathematical curves as ruled surfaces do [Holset 2004].

The compressor wheel blade trailing edge or blade tip can either extend radially from the center
of the wheels hub (as do the two impellers in Figure 9 below) or have a backward curvature,
Figure 8. Forward curved blades are also possible but are rarely used in turbochargers. Radial
impeller blades were very common in the past due to ease of manufacture and strength
considerationsthe blade tip was relatively unaffected by centrifugal forces resulting from high
rotational speeds. However, efficiency is lower with radial blades and modern turbochargers
will typically use a backward curved impeller to maximize compressor efficiency. However,
backward curvature can be limited by manufacturing considerations when impellers are
produced by casting and by strength considerations. The backward curvature means that blade
tips can be subjected to significant bending forces at high rotational speeds with the bending
stress increasing with backward sweep angle.

Selection of blade tip or trailing edge angle is a trade-off between performance and
manufacturing considerations. Figure 4 shows some of the performance trade-offs. The
backward curved blade has the highest efficiency but tends to provide the lowest pressure ratio
for a given tip speed that drops quickly [Hanlon 2001]. Backward curved impeller blades require
higher tip speeds compared to radial blades to maintain a given pressure ratio. 25.08.2016
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Flow Rate
Figure 4. Effect of blade tip angle on compressor performance

Turbocharger compressors often benefit from a higher number of blades to provide good flow
guidance along the impeller. However, if full length blades are used, the optimum number of
blades can lead to blockage of flow at the impeller inlet. To avoid this problem, splitter blades
that start part way through the impeller can be used, Figure 5.

Figure 5. Compressor impeller with full length and splitter blades

(Source: BorgWarner)

Blades have extremely close tolerances with the housing to minimize backflow. Production of
cast impellers and housings to tight tolerances can be a significant challenge. In some cases, the
stationary housing can be coated with an abradable coating that is softer than the blade material.
Upon initial start-up, the coating is worn away enough so that the impeller blade can pass freely
and clearances are kept to a minimum. This can provide a significant benefit in turbocharger 25.08.2016
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efficiency as evidenced by the improvement in engine fuel economy below 1300 rpm shown in
Figure 6 and by lower transient particulate emissions (not shown) [Sharp 1999].

Figure 6. Influence of turbocharger abradable coating on fuel economy

Compressor wheel attachment to the shaft can be via a through-hole (through-bore wheel) or a
blind hole (boreless wheel). In boreless designs, attachment of the wheel to the shaft can be via
a threaded connection or welding. In thrubore designs, a nut at the end of the shaft is commonly

Figure 7. Thrubore and boreless compressor wheels

Boreless compressor wheels can eliminate the area of high stress at the interface between the
wheel and shaft bore at the axial location where wheel diameter is largest. However, the axial
length of the wheel increases due to the need to attach the shaft to the wheel while avoiding
shaft protrusion beyond the z-plane (Figure 7). This can increase the footprint of the
turbocharger and, because of the longer distance from the bearing support to the wheels center 25.08.2016
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of mass, make the rotor dynamic effects more challenging. Also, alignment of the shaft and
impeller as well as rotating assembly balancing can become more difficult and expensive.

Diffuser. The diffuser can be vaneless as shown in Figure 3 or vaned, Figure 8 [Heywood 1988].
Early compressor diffusers used a series of divergent nozzles to convert kinetic energy to
pressure via volume expansion.

Figure 8. Segment of a radial compressor and vaned diffuser plate

Vanes shorten the flow path through the diffuser, reducing frictional losses and controlling the
radial velocity component of the gas. Due to lower friction, head and efficiency are enhanced.
However, off-design operation rapidly changes the incidence angle to the vanes and flow
separation occurs, resulting in a reduced operating range [Hanlon 2001]. Vaned diffusers are
common in marine and generator set applications where a high pressure ratio is often required
and a wide flow range is unnecessary.

Vaneless diffusers are used when some efficiency can be sacrificed to reduce manufacturing
costs, when size is not a criterion, or if a wide range of flow rates at a given pressure ratio is
required. Vaneless diffusers are used in most automotive type applications. A vaneless diffuser
provides a significantly lower-pressure recovery compared with a vaned diffuser of the same
diameter. The diffuser walls can also be designed with a nonlinear area increase with radial
distance. In any design it is important to ensure smooth internal surfaces in the diffuser to
reduce frictional losses [Siuru 2003].

Volute. A spiral-shaped volute or scroll collects the flow from the diffuser and passes it to the
compressor outlet. Figure 9 shows two volutes and their corresponding compressor wheels. The
cross-sectional area increase of volute from a, to b, to c helps convert kinetic energy into
potential energy, or air velocity into pressure [Schwitzer 1991]. Together with increased pressure,
the compressed air experiences an increase in its temperatureto over 200C in some
casesand therefore a reduction in its density. An intercooler or aftercooler can be used to cool
the compressed air and increase its density before it enters the engine. Note the different
connection to the piping at the exit from the volutes. 25.08.2016
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Figure 9. Two volute cover designs for radial compressor

An important objective of volute design is to achieve a uniform flow at the volute exit. This is
usually attained at the design flow-rate only, so that at off-design conditions the volute is either
too small or too large and a pressure distortion develops circumferentially around the volute. At
low flow-rates the pressure increases with azimuth angle, while at high flow-rates the pressure
decreases. These circumferential pressure distortions can be transmitted back to the impeller
discharge and even as far back as the impeller inlet. The pressure distortions reduce the
compressors performance and have a direct impact on diffuser and impeller flow stability
[Carter 2009].

3. Basic Principles of Compression Process

Before discussing various performance aspects of turbocharger compressors, it is important to

understand a few basic principles.

The ideal compression process can be considered to be isentropic, Figure 10. For an ideal gas, a
good approximation for a turbocharger compressor, the change in enthalpy is a function only of
temperature so this Figure 14lso reflects the enthalpy change. Due to various inefficiencies, the
actual process consumes more energy than the ideal. 25.08.2016
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Figure 10. Ideal and actual compression process

Isentropic efficiency of a compressor can be defined as

isentropic = hisentropic/(hin-hout) (1)

Inefficiency will show up as a higher than ideal compressor outlet temperature for a given
pressure ratio, Figure 11. Turbocharger efficiency can have a direct impact on the capacity of
the intercooler with less efficient compressors requiring higher intercooling capacity to maintain
a given intake manifold temperature.

Figure 11. Effect of compressor efficiency on outlet temperature

The energy behind the pressure increase in a centrifugal compressor is supplied by the impeller
via acceleration of the flow to very high velocities. Figure 12 clarifies various components of
these velocities for backward, radial and forward curved impeller blades [Golloch 2005]. 25.08.2016
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Figure 12. Velocity triangles for backward, radial and forward curved impeller blades

In Figure 12, C1 and C2 are the absolute velocity vectors (i.e., relative to the stationary frame of
the compressor) of the air entering and exiting the impeller. U1 and U2 are the impeller blade tip
speed vectors at these same locations. W1 and W2 are velocity vectors of the air flow entering
and leaving the impeller relative to the impeller:

W = C - U (2)

Pressure generation inside the compressor consists of several steps: (1) kinetic energy is first
supplied to the air by means of the rotor which accelerates the air to a high speed, (2) as the air
passes between the blades of the impeller, the cross-sectional flow area between the blades
increases which causes some of the kinetic energy imparted to the flow by the impeller to be
converted into static pressure within the impeller even while additional kinetic energy is being
added, (3) after the air exits the impeller, no more energy is transferred into the air flow. It is
now the role of the diffuser and volute to convert the remaining kinetic energy into static
pressure as efficiently as possible. This process is further illustrated in Figure 13 where the
subscripts 1, 2 and 2 correspond to the impeller inlet, diffuser inlet and volute inlet as shown in
Figure 3 [Merker 2012][Hanlon 2001]. 25.08.2016
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Figure 13. Centrifugal compression process in coordinates of specific enthalpy (h) and
specific entropy (s)

The total enthalpy change through the compressor can be described by the Euler equation:

ht = 1/2 [(C22 - C12) + (-W22 + W12) + (U22 - U12)] (3)

It can be shown that using Equation (2), the pressure increase across the impeller can be written

P2 - P1 = [G/2gc] (C2TU2 - C1TU1) (4)

where C2T and C1T are the tangential components of C2 and C1, Figure 12. Figure 14 shows how
pressure ratio can vary with impeller tip speed, U2 [NATO 2007]:

Figure 14. Effect of impeller tip speed on pressure ratio

A parameter that is common in fan engineering and occasionally used for turbocharger
compressors [Engels 2002] is the dimensionless pressure number, . One way to write this is:

= 2ht/U22 (5) 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 13 von 35

The value of the pressure number relates the total enthalpy change in the compressor to the tip
speed of the compressor impeller. Different values of reflect different compressor design
philosophies and a trade-off can exist between and turbocharger efficiency.

4. Compressor Maps

A common tool used in selecting a turbocharger compressor for a given application is a

compressor map. A compressor map provides the operating envelope of the compressor over all
stable operating points. For turbocharger compressors, the x-axis is normally in terms of flow
while the y-axis is in terms of pressure. In order to construct such a map, it is necessary to first
determine the pressure characteristics of the compressor over a range of compressor speeds and
flows. These characteristics are then plotted on a single graph to create the compressor map.

As shown in Equation (4), the pressure developed by a radial flow centrifugal compressor is
proportional to the product of C2T and U2. Using this relationship, Equation 1 and Figure 12, one
can deduce the shape of the ideal flow versus pressure curves for various blade tip angles. In an
impeller with radial blade tips, as flow decreases (i.e., W2 decreases) at a constant impeller
speed, the magnitude of C2 decreases and C2T is unaffected making the ideal pressure ratio
versus flow characteristic flat, Figure 15b. With backward curved blades, the magnitude of C2
increases and C2T also increases making the ideal pressure ratio highest at low flows Figure 15c
[Hanlon 2001].

(a) Forward (b) Radial (c) Backward


Flow Rate Flow Rate Flow Rate

Figure 15. General shape of pressure ratio versus flow characteristics
(a) forward, (b) radial, (c) backward curved impeller blades

In addition to pressure ratio, flow range is another important consideration that needs to be
taken into consideration when generating a compressor map. The lowest stable flow possible
from a centrifugal compressor at a particular rotational speed is determined by the surge limit
while the highest flow by choking.

As flow is reduced at a constant impeller speed, W2 decreases proportionately, causing the flow
angle 2 to decrease. In a vaneless diffuser, this creates a longer flow path through the diffuser
which increases frictional losses to the diffuser walls. Also, on the inlet side of the impeller, W1 25.08.2016
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decrease causing the flow angle 1 to decrease. At low enough flows, the low angle of 1 can
cause flow separation to occur on the low pressure side of the blade at the impeller inlet that can
further reduce flow into the impeller. This combined with the high frictional losses in the
diffuser can lead to a situation where the pressure generation in the diffuser falls below the
delivery pressure and the flow in the compressor can reverse. This reverse flow continues until
the resistance through diffuser drops enough for air discharge to be continued. This process is
repeated in a cyclic fashion and is referred to as surge. The point on the pressure versus flow
curve at a given impeller speed where surge occurs is referred to as the surge limit. The surge
limit can also be thought of as the maximum of the pressure versus flow curve at a given
impeller speed. Prolonged operation during compressor surge can damage the compressor.

Vanes in the diffuser can shorten the flow path through the diffuser to reduce frictional losses
and control the radial velocity component with the net result that pressure generation and
efficiency are improved. However, off-design operation changes the incidence angle to the
vanes and flow separation can occur, leading to a reduced operating range for the compressor.

At the other end of the pressure versus flow curve, as flow increases, a point can be reached
where W becomes too high for the flow to remain attached to the impeller blades and separation
can occur within the passages between the impellers blades. This separation reduces the
effective flow area and eventually a point is reached where the Mach number reaches 1 and flow
through the impeller becomes choked. The point on the pressure versus flow curve at a given
impeller speed where choking occurs is referred to as the choke limit. In practice, it is common
to define the choke limit in terms of compressor efficiency. For example, one manufacturer
defines the choke limit is the point on the pressure versus pressure curve where compressor
efficiency drops below 58%.

Using the above information, it is now possible to understand a compressor map, an example of
which is shown in Figure 16. Commonly, contours of constant compressor efficiency are
included on the compressor map. In addition to the surge and choke limits, compressor
maximum speed is fixedusually by material limitations. These three curves define the usable
envelope of pressure ratio and flow that the compressor can achieve. 25.08.2016
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Maximum speed
4.6 0.68
Constant impeller
speed, x1000 rpm
4.0 0.7
101.9 0.72
Surge line 0.74 0.65
3.4 0.75

2.8 85.6
Flow range

0.65 0.6
34.8 Choke limit
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
Corrected Mass Flow, kg/min
Figure 16. Example compressor map
BorgWarner EFR 9180 turbocharger

Corrected Parameters. In order to account for differences in ambient conditions, the

compressor map can be expressed in terms of variables that have been corrected to standard
temperature and pressure. Corrected mass flow is normally expressed as

Corrected mass flow = Actual mass flow ()/ (6)


= Tactual/Treference (7)

= Pactual/Preference (8)

This was done for the compressor map of Figure 16. Some manufacturers use corrected volume
flow instead:

Corrected volume flow = Actual volume flow / () (9)

Several other corrected parameters may also appear on compressor maps including:

Corrected speed = Actual speed / () (10)

Corrected torque = Actual torque / (11)

Corrected power = Actual power / () (12) 25.08.2016
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The reference temperature and pressure used by different manufacturers is not entirely
consistent and the user should be careful to check what these conditions are.

A compressor map can also be expressed in nondimensional variables. A dimensional analysis

of a centrifugal compressor reveals that


For high Reynolds number, the Reynolds number effect tends to be weak. For a fixed geometry
compressor and constant gas properties, this can be simplified to


The variable groupings in this simplification are no longer non-dimensional. In this

representation, the compressor speed parameter could have the dimension of rps (revolutions
per second) / K, while the mass flow could be expressed in units of (kg/s) K / MPa. Figure 17
shows a compressor map expressed in such simplified variable groupings derived from the
dimensional analysis. Figure 17 also plots compressor efficiency versus the flow parameter for a
series of compressor speeds; a representation that is sometimes used. It should be noted that
variables and units used in compressor maps from different manufacturers can vary. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 17 von 35

Figure 17. Compressor map plotted using simplified variable groupings from
dimensional analysis
(Source: Holset Turbochargers)

A parameter that is sometimes referred to in relation to compressors is the structural trim. For a
compressor (see Figure 3 for variable definitions):

Trimstructural = (d1/d2)2 (15)

As can be seen in Figure 18, decreasing trim shifts the compressor map to the left. It is also
important to note that a trim decrease lowers the flow rate at choking conditions for a given
impeller speed. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 18 von 35

Figure 18. Effect of compressor trim on compressor map

Equation (15) applies to compressor wheels where the trailing edge is parallel to the axis of
rotation. In cases where it is not, the aerodynamic trim can be used [Houst 2015]:

Trimaero = (d1/d2,RMS)2 (16)

And where d2,RMS is defined as:

d2,RMS = [(d22 + d2,tip2)/2] (17)

d2 = diameter of the wheel at root end of the exducer (i.e., where the hub and trailing edges meet)
d2,tip = diameter of the shroud edge of the wheel at the exducer (i.e., where the shroud and trailing edges meet)

The ratio of the area of the volute inlet to its distance from the compressor shaft, the so called
A/R ratio (see Figure 37) can also be referred to in relation to compressors. Compressor
performance is relatively insensitive to A/R ratio. Directionally, larger A/R housings are used
for low boost pressure and smaller A/R housings for high boost pressure applications. The A/R
ratio is much more critical with respect to turbines (see discussion later).

Other parameters that can be used to discuss compressor characteristics include the annulus
area and the vaneless diffuser annulus area. Definitions for these can be found elsewhere [Houst

Figure 19 illustrates how the airflow requirements at constant engine speed and load would
appear on a typical compressor map. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 19 von 35

Figure 19. Compressor map overlayed with constant load and constant speed airflow
characteristic from a 4-stroke diesel engine

Figure 20 overlays the full load compressor performance curves for several different
applications from the 1980s on a compressor map with a dimensionless flow parameter [Bosch
1986]. It should be noted that turbocharger control has changed considerably and the
characteristics for more modern applications would be considerably different, especially for the
truck and passenger car applications. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 20 von 35


3.5 Ship

Surge limit

2.5 Truck

u [m/s]
2.0 450
80 car
78 75
[%] 300

1.0 150
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5
Volumetric Flow Rate Parameter = 4V/D2a

Figure 20. Compressor map showing example engine performance lines

Figure 21 shows the range of the compressor map that would be utilized between no load and
full load for and older application where boost pressure is limitedpossibly with a wastegate
[Henein 1985]. At very low speeds and loads, the compressor would produce no boost.

Figure 21. Performance characteristics of turbocharger compressor

5. Turbocharger Turbine

5.1 Types of Turbine Geometry

There are three types of turbines suitable for exhaust gas turbochargers: radial-flow, axial-flow
and mixed-flow, Figure 22 [Mathis 2003]. The mixed flow turbine has characteristics between the 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 21 von 35

radial and axial turbines. The high-pressure flow enters the turbine at the inlet (3) and is guided
to the stator inlet (3) where vanes turn the flow in a direction tangential to the rotor. The flow
leaves the stator vanes and enters the rotor blades (3), which turn the flow back in the opposite
direction, extracting energy from the flow. The flow leaving the rotor blades (4), now at a lower
pressure, passes through a diffuser where a controlled increase in flow area converts dynamic
head to static pressure. After the diffuser, the flow exits to the discharge conditions.

Figure 22. Three possible exhaust gas turbine geometries

The purpose of the inlet is to guide the flow from the supply to the stator vanes with a minimum
loss in total pressure. A radial turbine will include a volute or scroll to help achieve this
objective. The stator or nozzle induces a swirl component to the flow so that a torque can be
imparted to the rotor blades. Stators can be equipped with numerous curved airfoils called vanes
that turn the flow in the tangential direction. Many radial-inflow turbines for turbochargers often
have no vanes in the stator. To achieve good efficiency over a wide range of inlet flow
conditions, variable-geometry stators can be used, typically with either pivoting stator vanes
(Figure 23) or a variable width nozzle (Figure 24) [Carter 2009]. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 22 von 35

Figure 23. Swing Vane Variable Geometry Turbine

Figure 24. Moving nozzle or moving wall type variable geometry turbine

The rotor extracts energy from the flow, converting it to shaft power. The rotor blades are
attached to a rotating disk that transfers the torque of the rotor blades to the turbine output shaft.
Like the stator, the rotor has a number of individual curved airfoils called rotor or turbine
blades. The blades are angled to accept the flow from the stator with minimum disturbance
when the turbine is operating at design conditions. The flow from the stator is then turned back
in the opposite direction in a controlled manner, causing a change in tangential momentum and
a force to be exerted on the blades. The flow leaving the turbine rotor can have a significant
amount of kinetic energy. If this kinetic energy is converted to static pressure in an efficient
manner, the turbine can be operated with a rotor discharge static pressure lower than the static
pressure at diffuser discharge. This increases the turbine power output for a given inlet and
discharge conditions.

Radial Flow Turbines. The choice of turbine type depends on a variety of factors including
turbine efficiency, packaging requirements and manufacturing cost. Generally, for engine
applications of about 1000 hp/turbocharger or less (i.e., turbine wheel diameter of about 130
mm or less), cost and simplicity are critical factors and radial turbines are typically the most
attractive option. In these applications, maximum exhaust temperatures tend to be higher and
radial-flow turbines are the better choice. Compared to the axial-flow turbines, there is a much
larger difference between the rotor inlet relative and absolute velocities for the radial-flow
turbine that results in a lower relative inlet total temperature at the design point. Also, due to the
decrease in rotor speed with radius, the relative total temperature decreases toward the root of 25.08.2016
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the radial-flow turbine blades. This is a major advantage for applications where turbine
rotational speed can potentially be limited by temperature-dependent material properties. Due to
bending stress considerations in the rotor blades, a radial-flow turbine would use a radial blade
tip profile at the inlet to eliminate bending loads. This combined with the decreased temperature
in the high-stress blade root areas allows the radial-inflow turbine to operate at significantly
higher wheel speeds than an axial-flow turbine to provide an appreciable increase in turbine
efficiency for high-pressure-ratio applications [Mathis 2003]. In this size range, radial turbines
also offer better performance because of tip clearance considerations and there is no need for a
separate nozzle ring which simplifies manufacturing and reduces cost when compared to axial

Axial Flow Turbines. Axial turbines, Figure 25, are typically used in applications that exceed
about 1000 hp/turbocharger (i.e., turbine wheel diameter of more than about 130 mm) where
they offer an efficiency and size advantage over radial flow turbines. Examples of applications
that can use an axial flow turbine include medium and low speed diesel engines. For many of
these large engines, maximum turbine inlet temperatures and pressure ratios are lower than for
smaller high speed engines and the blade speed of an axial wheel is not constrained by stress
considerations. The radial-flow turbine would be at a size disadvantage. The use of radial blade
tips on a radial flow turbine to eliminate bending stress limits the ratio of the tangential
component of the absolute inlet velocity to blade tip speed (CT/U) to 1 or less while an axial
flow turbine can have CT/U > 1 with only a small impact on efficiency. This would result in a
larger and heavier radial-inflow turbine than axial flow turbine when a given power and
rotational speed is required [Mathis 2003].

Figure 25. Turbocharger Featuring Radial Flow Compressor and Axial Flow Turbine
MAN Diesel & Turbo Series TCA 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 24 von 35

Axial turbines typically need a relatively large exhaust diffuser and collector for maximum
efficiency which can make them more difficult to package for a single turbocharger installation
where space is limited. However, if two turbines are used in a series arrangement such as for a
turbocompound or dual turbocharger installation, an axial turbine can bring both manufacturing
and packaging benefits. When the exhaust from a radial turbine is directed straight into an axial
turbine, a considerably simplified piping arrangement can be used, Figure 26 [Greszler 2008]
[Gobert 2007].

Figure 26. Turbo-compound utilizing axial flow turbine connected to a turbocharger with
a radial flow turbine

Axial turbine manufacture poses particular challenges. For large axial turbines, individual
blades are often mounted on the hub in what is known as the fir tree root arrangement.
However, such a technique would be too costly for small wheels where one-piece, blade, disk
and hub arrangements (blisk) are used. However, this requires complex tooling and limits the
choice of blade shapes more so than with radial turbines.

Large axial turbines also commonly use a damping wire to dampen blade vibration. To
incorporate this wire, a hole in each blade at about 50-75% span is required which would be
impractical on a small axial wheel being produced in high volumes. Potential vibration issues
therefore have to be tackled through basic blade design that leads to compromises in

Mixed Flow Turbines. Choosing between radial-flow and mixed-flow is less straightforward.
The original motivation for mixed flow turbine wheels for turbochargers was the reduction of
turbine mass and inertia to improve engine transient response. A mixed-flow turbine wheel can
handle a higher gas flow than a radial turbine of equivalent diameter. Later it was discovered
that mixed-flow turbines can also allow both improved aerodynamic blade loadingleading to
greater efficiencyand the ability to adjust the turbines peak efficiency point to a higher or 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 25 von 35

lower engine speed that can be useful in maximizing pulse energy from the exhaust. However,
the merits of a mixed-flow turbine must be weighed against the more complex tooling required
to produce it. Furthermore, the turbine housing requires more space which could be an issue in a
vehicles congested engine compartment [Holset 2004a][Lddecke 2012]. Audis 3rd generation of
TFSI engines (EA888) are an example of a modern application that uses mixed flow turbines.
The 1.8 L engine uses an IHI mixed flow turbine while the 2.0 L (Generation 3B) uses a
Continental RAAX mixed flow turbine, Figure 27.

Figure 27. Continentals RAAX (RAdial AXial) turbine for Audis 2.0 L Generation 3B
TFSI engine

5.2 Constant Pressure and Pulse Turbines

The volume of the piping between the exhaust manifold and the turbine housing plays a very
important role in the dynamic operation of the turbocharger. By enlarging this volume as well as
that of the manifold, pulsations from the exhaust valves discharging into the manifold are
dampened and the pressure at the turbine inlet is much more constant. This approach is referred
to as constant pressure turbocharging. While this method ensures the continuous flow of
exhaust gas over the turbine blades, it does not maximize the use of exhaust energy in the
turbine because the pressure peaks are damped out. It can also result in higher exhaust back
pressure which can reduce engine volumetric efficiency.

A second approach makes use of the pulsating nature of exhaust emanating from each of the
exhaust valves and is called pulse turbocharging. A common design for in-line engines from 4
to 6 cylinders couples the front cylinders in a single manifold that leads to one side of the
connecting flange, and the rear cylinders in another single manifold leading to the other side of
the same connecting flange, Figure 28a [Obert 1968]. This method is preferred for applications
where engine response is important (most on-highway applications), since exhaust energy
utilization is maximized and exhaust back pressure is lower. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 26 von 35

Figure 28. Pulse conservation and pulse converter systems

In modern engine designs utilizing pulse turbocharging and where one turbocharger is served by
4 or 6 cylinders, it is common to use a twin scroll turbocharger, Figure 30a. An example for a 4
cylinder engine is shown in Figure 29. The exhaust inlet is split into two parts where one part
carries exhaust from cylinders one and four, while the other from cylinders two and three. Pulse
turbocharging also prevents exhaust pulses exiting the cylinder from one cylinder forcing
exhaust gas back into another cylinder when exhaust valve open events overlap [Grosse 2000].
Greater part load efficiencies are possible and more air is available at full load. Fuel
consumption reductions of 15 to 20% are possible.

Figure 29. Twin scroll type turbocharger

Figure 30. Twin scroll turbine (a) and dual volute turbine (b)
(Source: BorgWarner) 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 27 von 35

Exhaust gas recirculation in a pulse turbocharging system can be a challenge and pulse energy
can be optimized if EGR is recirculated to the intake manifold from only one side of the two-
piece exhaust manifold. This would create a significant difference in the exhaust flows reaching
the turbine from the two exhaust manifolds. One solution is to use an asymmetrical twin scroll
turbine, Figure 31. This approach is used by Daimler in its engines intended for US EPA 2010
and Euro VI applications.

Figure 31. Asymmetrical twin scroll turbine

One advantage of the dual volute turbine is that it is much easier to combine the benefits of a
variable geometry nozzle into a pulse turbine, Figure 32 [Sauerstein 2009]. While a twin scroll
turbine could in principle also incorporate a variable geometry nozzle, implementation is much
more challenging. One option that has been proposed is to use a moving divider wall, the wall
separating the two scrolls [Anschel 2011]. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 28 von 35

Figure 32. Dual volute turbine with variable geometry nozzle

(Source: BorgWarner)

The third and last method of connecting the exhaust manifold to the turbine housing is called the
pulse converter. Figure 28b describes one embodiment of the pulse converter method showing a
venturi box that converts exhaust kinetic energy to potential energy or pressure, which is similar
to that in the constant pressure system. In the past, constant pressure systems were common in
two-stroke engine applications and pulse conservation systems in four-stroke on-highway
applications [Obert 1968].

6. Turbine Energy Extraction

Gas flow through a turbine is considered to be an adiabatic expansion process. Ideally, this
process is isentropic as shown in the T-s diagram of Figure 33. It should be noted that as with a
compressor, assuming that the exhaust is an ideal gas is reasonable. For an ideal gas, enthalpy,
h, is only a function of temperature, h(T), and the temperature differences in Figure 33 also
reflect enthalpy differences. The actual energy transfer in a turbine is smaller than the isentropic
value due to irreversibilities in the flow. The actual process is marked by an increase in entropy
and is also represented in Figure 33. The enthalpy change associated with an entropy increase is
less than that for an isentropic process. The ratio of the actual to isentropic enthalpy change
reflects the degree of entropy increase and is referred to as the isentropic (sometimes adiabatic)

isentropic = (hin - hout) / hisentropic (18)

It can also be shown that the energy transfer to the turbine wheel can be expressed as

hactual = U3 CT3 - U4 CT4 (19) 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 29 von 35

Figure 33. Ideal and actual expansion process across a turbine

Losses. The difference between the ideal and actual enthalpy change across the turbine is made
up of losses from various sources. These sources include the inlet, stator, rotor, diffuser and exit
[Mathis 2003].

Inlet losses primarily arise from frictional and turning effects. The inlet should be made as large
as the packaging restraints allow; reducing velocities and minimizing losses. Axial inlets are
short and have relatively low velocities and as such have low frictional losses but often suffer
from turning losses due to flow separation along their outer diameter. Longer axial inlets with
more gradual changes in outer diameter tend to reduce the turning losses and prevent separation,
but adversely impact turbine envelope. Tangential entry inlets such as those found in radial flow
turbines tend to have higher losses due to the tangential turning and acceleration of the flow.
The spiral flow path also tends to be longer, increasing frictional losses.

Stator losses arise primarily from friction within the vanes, secondary flows caused by the flow
turning, and exit losses due to blockage at the vane trailing edges.

Rotor losses are similar to those for stators but with a few additional components to account for
tip clearance and windage losses. Turbine rotors operate with a small clearance between the tips
of the blades and the turbine housing. Flow leaks across this gap from the high-pressure side of
the blade to the low-pressure side, causing a reduction in the pressure difference at the tip of the
blade. This reduces the tangential force on the blade, decreasing the torque delivered to the
shaft. Windage losses arise from the drag of the turbine disk.

Losses in the diffuser arise from sources similar to those in other flow passages, namely, friction
and flow turning.

As for exit losses, in a single stage turbocharger turbine they equal the exit kinetic energy of the
flow unless used in an additional turbine stage or in some other manner. If the kinetic energy of
the flow exiting the diffuser is used in later stages, the exit losses are zero. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 30 von 35

Dimensionless Parameters. To make comparisons between different turbines easier, a number

of variable groupings arising from dimensional analysis are sometimes used [Mathis 2003].

Specific Speed. The specific speed of a turbine is defined as


where Q2 is the volumetric flow rate through the turbine at rotor exit conditions. The specific
speed is used to relate the performance of geometrically similar turbines of different size. In
general, turbine efficiency for two geometrically similar turbines at the same specific speed will
be approximately equal. However, small differences can exist due to clearance and Reynolds
number effects. Maintaining specific speed of a turbine is a common approach to scaling a
turbine to different flow rates.

Specific Diameter. The specific diameter is defined as


where dtip is the tip diameter of either a radial in-flow or axial flow turbine rotor. Specific
diameter and specific speed are used to correlate turbine performance.

Blade-Jet Speed Ratio. Turbine performance can also be correlated against the blade-jet speed
ratio, which is a measure of the blade speed relative to the ideal stator exit velocity. The ideal
stator exit velocity, C0, is calculated assuming the entire ideal enthalpy drop across the turbine is
converted into kinetic energy:


The blade-jet speed ratio is then calculated from


The value of blade speed at the mean turbine blade radius is typically used for axial turbines
while for radial-inflow turbines, the rotor tip speed is used.

7. Turbine Performance

Figure 34 shows a typical performance map for a radial flow turbine. The pressure ratio
represents the ratio of inlet to outlet pressure. One important feature to note is that mass flow
typically reaches a limiting value that is unique to each rotational speed. This is a result of
choking. The choked flow limit increases as turbine speed decreases. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 31 von 35

Figure 34. Typical radial-flow turbine map

Rarely is an entire map such as that in Figure 34 shown. Rather, turbine performance around
peak turbine efficiency is more commonly found, Figure 35. When the pressure ratio versus
mass flow characteristics at a number of turbine speeds are plotted in this way, they often form a
curve that is almost continuous. A line drawn through these curves at the peak efficiency for
each turbine speed is sometimes referred to as the turbine swallowing capacity and represents
the desired operating curve of the turbine. In order to better match the turbine swallowing
capacity to the flow from the engine, it is important to select a suitable A/R ratio for the turbine
(see below). Further adjustments can be made by controlling the swallowing efficiency with a
wastegate or variable geometry turbine. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 32 von 35

Figure 35. Turbine swallowing capacity (lower curve) and efficiency (upper curve)

Figure 35 also shows measured turbine efficiency (the product of mechanical and isentropic
efficiency) at a number of different turbine speeds as a function of turbine pressure ratio.
Another way to present turbine efficiency is to plot it against blade speed ratio, Figure 36. The
peak turbine efficiency is typically found near a blade speed ratio of about 0.7 for radial flow
turbines and around 0.4 for axial flow turbines.

Figure 36. Turbine isentropic efficiency as a function of blade speed ratio

A/R Ratio. An important parameter to match the swallowing capacity of the turbine to the flow
from the engine is the A/R ratio. It is defined as the cross-sectional area of the inlet of the scroll
over the distance of the centroid of that area to the center of the turbine shaft, Figure 37. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 33 von 35

Cross-sectional area
Figure 37. Illustration and definition of A/R ratio

Figure 38 illustrates the effect of the A/R ratio on the swallowing capacity of a radial flow
turbine. A small A/R ratio increases the tangential velocity at the turbine wheel tip for a given
exhaust flow and thus provides higher turbine and compressor rotational speeds. This can
improve air flow at low engine speeds that can be used to enhance low speed engine
torqueespecially if torque is smoke limited.


20 1.15

1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
Pressure Ratio
Figure 38. Effect of A/R Ratio on Swallowing Capacity of an Exhaust Gas Turbine
Garret GT4508R turbocharger with 85 turbine trim

Figures 38 shows the effect of A/R ratio on smoke emissions at engine speeds below peak
torque speed. The turbocharger with the smaller A/R ratio helped reduce smoke emissions at
these two speeds by a substantial margin. Turbocharger lag is also reduced and thus engine
transient response improved with a smaller A/R ratio. However, a small A/R ratio turbine will
choke at lower flow rates. To maximize engine power, a larger A/R ratio would be more
beneficial. 25.08.2016
Turbocharger Fundamentals Seite 34 von 35

Figure 39. Effect of turbine A/R ratio on smoke from medium-duty DI diesel engine

For turbines, the trim is also an important parameter that influences flow capacity. A larger trim
will handle a higher flow rate and result in less backpressure but will recover less exhaust
energy and increase turbocharger lag.

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