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Everything you need to know about turbochargers

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Turbocharger, or turbo as it is commonly referred to, is a common word among automobile enthusiasts. Most Americans have come to associate the word turbo with high automobile speed. Considering the work that’s turbochargers do, it’s an apt association. 

With the recent impact of racing movies like fast and furious and death race, the concept of turbocharging cars is more popular than ever before. A lot of people have taken to improving their cars with turbos from Goldfarb Inc and other similar stores. 

Turbochargers are induction machines that increase the efficiency of the internal combustion in a car’s engine by forcing more air into the combustion chamber. Typical engines require atmospheric pressure to help air suction into the combustion chamber. With Turbochargers, the forced air suction triggers a proportional amount of fuel, the combustion of which makes more power available for the driver. 

Turbochargers are not popular just because they increase the speed of a car; they’re also well-loved because they improve engine fuel efficiency. Turbos are connected in such a way that they take in waste power from a car’s exhaust and use it to compress air before letting it out into the combustion chamber. This ensures that every joule of energy is used up before being passed off as waste. Incidentally, the energy efficiency of turbos also makes them great for reducing emissions from cars.

Car manufacturers also love turbo because it helps them utilize smaller and lighter engines while achieving high energy efficiency. In Europe over 75% of the cars to be produced in 2020 are expected to have turbo engines. The USA is expected to hit similar numbers of turbo engine cars in 5 years from then. 

It is legal to install turbos in most states in the US provided your car stays below the emission limits. Turbochargers can be used in both gasoline and diesel-powered cars. Since they’re more common in diesel engines, they’re also commonplace in trucks. It’s, however in aircraft that they find the most use. They are crucial to the aerodynamics required for flight. 

How Turbochargers work

The exhaust of cars contains hot gases coming out speed. These gases contain heat and kinetic energy that is typically let out into the atmosphere as waste. Turbos  make use of this hot gas to compress the air that it sucks in. They then push this air into the engine cylinders, allowing them to burn more fuel and produce more power. 

That’s the easy explanation. To really understand how a turbo works, you have to take a look at its most essential parts. The parts are typically replaceable and can be substituted to improve performance. Here are the most important parts of a turbine: 

  • Turbine: a turbine is essentially a fan that is placed along the path of the exhaust stream. When the hot exhaust steam flows past it, it rotates the turbine. This rotational speed can go as fast as 250,000 rpm. The motion from the turbine is used to generate motion in the compressor. The characteristics of the turbine, especially the size and number of blades, have a significant effect on the efficiency of a turbocharger. 
  • Compressor: the compressor’s job is to increase air intake into the combustion chamber. It is made up of an impeller (another fan) a diffuser and a volute housing. The impellers blades draw in air as they rotate. This air is transferred to the diffuser where it is compressed and finally sent into the combustion chamber through the volute housing. 
  • Centre Hub Rotating Assembly: it contains the shaft linking the compressor impeller and the turbine to transmit motion from one to the other. 

Types Of Turbochargers 

In a bid to improve efficiency, turbos have come in a few different designs over time. Here are some of the popular ones:

  • Twin-turbo: this design involves placing two Turbochargers side by side either in series or in parallel. In parallel, both the turbine of turbochargers are each fed by half of the exhaust’s effluent. On the other hand, the series configuration requires one turbo usually at a lower velocity feeding into another turbo of a predetermined speed. 
  • Twin scroll turbo: also known as a divided turbo, it typically contains two exhaust gas inlets and two nozzles (pressure outlets). The design can be made to have a smaller, sharper angle that reduces response time or a larger, less angle to increase performance.
  • Variable geometry turbo: this category of turbo uses movable vanes to regulate the airflow into the turbine, therefore, allowing for optimal use. 

Advantages of Turbochargers

  • Increased power: turbos increase the airflow into the combustion chamber. This, in turn, causes a proportional increase in fuel combusted, thereby making more power available per second to the car driver. Using a turbocharger, you get more power output from the engine on every stroke of the piston than without one. 
  • Increased Fuel efficiency: using a turbo with an engine typically results in more fuel consumption per piston stroke. While that is true, it also means that a smaller engine can be paired with a turbocharger to generate similar results as a bigger engine. In practice, a turbocharger can save up to 10% of fuel consumption. 
  • Cleaner emissions: Since the hot gases in the exhaust, it ensures that the fuel is thoroughly burnt. This resulting gas that is passed out is significantly cleaner than from a regular exhaust. 

Disadvantages of Turbochargers

  • Turbochargers add to the complexity of a car’s engine. 
  • Turbochargers result in increased pressure and temperature around a car’s engine, typically resulting in shorter lifespans for engines. 
  • Turbocharged cars can be tricky to drive due to a lag in initiation time. 

Turbochargers vs Superchargers 

Although turbos were initially classified as superchargers, there are stark differences between both types of equipment. They both have a similar function in that they use forced induction to increase the power available in an automobile. 

The main difference between both is how they derive energy. While turbos make use of the heat and kinetic energy from the car’s exhaust, superchargers rely on energy from the car’s crankshaft.

Turbos have the advantage of being able to provide more power, fuel economy and cleaner emissions over superchargers. However, the linear production of power form superchargers makes for a smoother experience when bumping up the speed.

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Automotive

Ride Sharing Services Associated With Binge Drinking

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Ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber are uniquely positioned to reduce fatalities and deaths from drunk driving and also, according to a recent study, they are linked to increased binge drinking.

To date, much of the research carried out on drunk driving and ride-sharing focuses on how services like Uber could contribute to a decrease in DWIs, fatalities, and accidents, the researchers noted.

‘’There’s fairly strong evidence that this expanded supply of transportation is allowing people to do less driving while drunk,’’ co-author Jeffrey McCullough said, health management and policy associate professor of Michigan School of Public Health University. ‘’But at the same time, we found that it is making it easier for people to engage in alcohol consumption particularly binge drinking, which is the worst kind of drinking.’’

McCullough and collaborators used press releases from Uber to indicate when the service entered the market. They contrasted this data against what they knew about population density and alcohol consumption according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems Annual Survey, an extensive US survey on residents about preventive services use, chronic health conditions, and their risk behaviors.

Using 113 urban markets data collected between 2010 and 2016, the researchers specifically looked at those who confessed that in the preceding 30 days they had drunk alcohol and the ones that confessed to binge drinking (approximately 5 drinks for males and 4 drinks for females at once) in the same period.

Researchers didn’t find a connection between Uber’s entrance into the market and generally modest alcohol consumption frequency. Still, they witnessed that in high-density markets, binge drinking rose by 4% after Uber’s came into the market.

”Clearly, there are health benefits to reducing drunk driving, but we are also seeing an increase in binge drinking,” said McCullough. ”It’s not that we should stop ride-hailing services. They do create value. But the study suggests we should be thinking about other public health risks related to alcohol consumption as transportation technology changes.’’

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Automotive

China Unveils Superconducting Train

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Chinese researchers have made public a new maglev train prototype they developed. Running on high-temperature technology, the high-speed train will run on liquid nitrogen which is much cheaper than liquid helium.

Chinese officials and press received the prototype last week in Chengdu. Southwest Jiatong University hosted the unveiling and witnessed test runs.

The prototype has leveraged several new technologies; such as a low-resistance locomotive shape, a light-weight carbon fiber body, and a superconducting maglev with a capacity for both high-temperature and large load.

Traditional railway trains run on wheels but maglev (also referred to as magnetic levitation) trains are propelled above a guidance track. The Southwest Jiatong University is the birthplace of the superconducting maglev technology.

From the 1980s, the school has worked to advance technological innovation and theoretical research. The university partnered with China Railway Group Limited, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and other companies and institutions in 2020 to begin on the prototype’s manufacture. Other than that, they needed to manufacture the test line and build the train’s transit system.

Wu Zili, a senior engineer in SWJTU, was interviewed by the South China Morning Post. He mentioned the train’s systems achieved superconductivity at about one-fiftieth of what liquid helium systems cost. He explained that ordinary superconductors required -269 degrees Celsius while high-temperature superconductors could only work with liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius.

The engineer added that the train had a self-maglev feature. The train was capable of remaining suspended without extra energy. The train is intended to move at a record speed of 385mph (800km/h.

Future editions of the train are expected to rise to a speed of 500mph (800km/h) because of low vacuum tunnel technology. Trials for an even better maglev prototype were running last year at Shanghai Tonji University.

SJTU is working on other innovations besides the maglev train. An urban rail vehicle running on wireless power supply is also in the works.

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Automotive

Thin Molecular Layer that makes Batteries more Reliable

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Researchers at Penn State University’s Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center are looking to come up with better automobile chargers that are more reliable and charge quicker.

They are experimenting with a thin layer of electrochemically active molecules that are self-assembling to make better batteries.

“The lithium metal battery is the next generation of battery after the lithium ion battery,” explained Donghai Wang, researcher at Penn State University’s Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center and a Mechanical, Chemical engineering professor. “It uses a lithium anode and has higher energy density but has problems with dendritic growth, low efficiency, and low cycle life.”

The researchers are working with a self-assembling monolayer to solve these problems. Because it is electrochemically active, it breaks down into its various components to protect the lithium anode’s surface.

The battery in question has a lithium anode as well as a lithium metal oxide cathode and an electrolyte with materials that conduct lithium-ion. It also has the thin film layer on the outside that prevents the battery from growing lithium crystal spikes when it is charged too quickly or when the temperature is too cool. The spikes also cause the battery to short and cut short its longevity.

Says Professor Wang: “The key is to tune the molecular chemistry to self-assemble on the surface. The monolayer will provide a good solid electrolyte interface when charging and protect the lithium anode.”

The monolayer is first deposited on a thin layer of copper so that when charged, the lithium contacts the monolayer and breaks down into an interfacial layer that is stable.

Some lithium deposits on the copper with the other layer and the decomposed part of the first layer is restored on top of the lithium where it protects it and prevents the formation of lithium dendrites.

Researchers say that the technology can boost battery storage capacity and enable batteries to be charged more times in its lifetime. It cannot be charged more than a few hundred times at this point.

“The key is that this technology shows an ability to form a layer when needed on time and decompose and spontaneously reform so it will stay on the copper and also cover the surface of the lithium,” explained Wang. “Eventually it could be used for drones, cars, or some very small batteries used for underwater applications at low temperatures.”

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