century of turbocharging

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Century of Turbocharging


  • TurboM a g a z i n e

    Published by ABB Turbo Systems Ltd

    C E N T E N A R Y I S S U E

    A centuryof turbocharging

  • 2 Turbocharging in Switzerland A history3 Pioneering era

    8 Turbochargings triumphant march

    16 The modern era begins

    23 A century of progress

    Reprinted from Turbo Magazine 2 /2005

    C O N T E N T S

  • A century of turbochargingThe year 2005 will go down as a special year in our companys history. In addition to

    being one of the most successful to date, it reminds us of an important event which,

    exactly one hundred years ago, laid the basis for the success we enjoy today.1905 was

    the year that a highly talented Swiss engineer by the name of Alfred Buechi filed the

    patent that would come to be looked upon as the starting point for exhaust gas turbo -


    Alfred Buechi soon approached BBC in the hope of turning his highly supercharged

    compound engine into reality. Some initial reservations on the part of our company

    eventually, and thankfully, gave way to an agreement on collaboration. It marked the

    beginning of one of the most notable success stories in Switzerlands industrial history.

    The past 100 years have brought changes to every area of life. Today, turbocharged

    engines play a highly influential role in many of these areas, and our fascination with

    them is in no way diminished. Also unchanged are the qualities know-how, talent

    and staying power that are essential to achieve the goals we see as being achievable,

    for our customers and for ourselves.

    I hope you enjoy reading this short history of turbocharging and of our turbochargers. I

    am sure that while some of the journey may be familiar, you will, like me, also find that

    the story has much which is new to discover.

    Daniel Arnet


    ABB Turbo Systems Ltd


    F O R E W O R D

  • C E N T E N A R Y


    Turbocharging in Switzerland A history

    This issue of Turbo Magazine traces the history of the ABB turbocharger,

    from its roots in the 1905 Buechi patent through the development and progress

    of the VTR and RR series to the advanced TPS and TPL generations.

    The high-tech ABB turbochargerwe know today is a far cry fromthe first supercharged scavengingblower with attached exhaust gasturbine that Brown Boveri built for

    an experimental two-stroke enginein 1924. But that ground-breakingmachine was also advanced for itstime. And it, too, was the product ofearlier invention and innovation,

    inspired by an idea patented by aSwiss engineer 100 years ago andnow universally recognized as thestarting point for exhaust gas turbo -charging.

    Baden home of theABB turbocharger.

  • C E N T E N A R Y



    Diesel sets the scene

    The story of the exhaust gas turbo -charger began in a period of phenomenal technical progress. Theearly years of the twentieth centurywere remarkable for the break-throughs they produced (not theleast of them powered flight!). Engi-neers and entrepreneurs alike wereactive in the promising field of thermal machines. Rudolf Diesel hadpatented the engine named after himalready in 1892, and its efficiencywas by now better than 30 percent.(Diesel even mentioned supercharg-ing in an early patent claim, but laterexperiments did not produce thehigh efficiency he was seeking, so hedecided to take it no further.)

    The first diesel engines of MAN (MaschinenfabrikAugsburg-Nrnberg) inGermany and B&W(Burmeister & Wain) inDenmark, as well as ofother companies, datefrom this period. Swissmachine manufacturerSulzer also began to builddiesel engines at its factoryin Winterthur around1900. And in Baden, less than 50 kilometers away, a certain electri-cal engineering company by thename of Brown, Boveri & Cie wascelebrating its first decade in busi-ness by embarking on an excitingnew venture. It was the constructionof continental Europes first steamturbine, the very branch of engineer-ing that would later bring forth theBBC exhaust gas turbocharger.

    Buechis 1905 patent

    The Swiss engineer we have to thankfor the 1905 patent is Alfred Buechi,who at the time was working withSulzer. In it, he describes a highly

    supercharged compound enginewith a four-stroke diesel engine,multi-stage axial compressor andmulti-stage axial turbine mounted ona common shaft. In a subsequent USpatent Buechi went further, describ-ing the series arrangement of thethree machines in general terms in asub-claim.

    Further work by Buechi at Sulzereventually led to publication in 1909of his idea for a freewheeling turbo -charger (it would nevertheless besome time before anyone would fol-low this up) and later, in 1915, to hisimportant scavenging patent.

    It was also in 1915 that Buechi, look-ing for a partner, first contactedBrown Boveri in Baden. The company, which by then had alreadygained a great deal of experience

    in designing andbuilding turboma-chinery, consideredBuechis proposal,but turned downthe opportunity ofcollaboration, as itdid again later in1919, on the groundsthat the project as a whole is undesir-able and uneco-nomical. Whatever

    the reasons for this conclusion, advo-cates of turbocharging did exist atBBC and it would not be long beforethey were making a strong case forits development.

    Parallel developments

    Around the same time, work onsupercharging aircraft engines wasgoing on in France under AugusteRateau and at General Electric in theUSA under Sanford Moss.

    In a 1916 patent (which was not pub-lished until 1921) Rateau, who hadcollaborated with Brown Boveri ingas turbine development in the early

    1900s, described devices for regu -lating a supercharging compressor driven by an exhaust gas turbine,and in 1917 manufactured and testedsuch a device. Aircraft with turbo -charged engines were in use towardsthe end of and after World War I, butdevelopment was not taken any further. Alfred Buechi and others later acknowledged that Rateaushould take the credit for havingmanufactured the first turbocharger.

    Moss was the first to manufacture turbochargers on a regular basis.Interestingly, the early GE Moss turbo charger had a manually con-trolled flap which, in certain flightconditions, made it possible to blowoff the exhaust gases and bypass the gas turbine something wenowadays refer to as a waste gate.

    First BBC steam turbine the branchof engineering that would later bring forth the BBCexhaust gas turbo -charger.

    The compoundengine patented byBuechi in 1905 andrecognized as the starting point for exhaust gas turbocharging.

    Alfred Buechi


    to: B



    rist O


  • C E N T E N A R Y


    Turbochargings potential is


    The change in Brown Boveris policycame in 1923 with the publication inGermany of a report on low-pressuresupercharging trials carried out byMAN. These trials, on a 160-rpm,four-stroke engine, had shown thatwith a charge pressure of just 1.35bar the engine output increased by33% even after the power for theelectrically driven blower had beensubtracted. The use of exhaust gas todrive the compressor promised a fur-ther 6 8% increase in power as wellas lower fuel consumption. On topof this, the operating pressure, thecombustion temperatures and theheat load on the walls all remainedwithin acceptable limits.

    Brown Boveri now decided to applythe know-how it had acquired build-ing turbines and compressors to thedevelopment of superchargers.

    First ships with

    turbocharged engines

    1923 was also the year that theVulkan shipyard in Stettin received acontract to build two large passenger

    ships, the Preussen and the Hanse -stadt Danzig, for the East PrussiaLine. Each ship was to be poweredby two 10-cylinder four-stroke MANengines, built under licence and turbocharged from 1,750 to 2,500horsepower. The engines had a com-mon exhaust gas receiver for allcylinders, which meant that theyoperated under constant pressure.The turbochargers, de signed andbuilt under Buechis supervision,were manufactured in the Vulkanworks in Hanover, with BBC inMannheim providing the compressorwheels. After being tested in May1926, they were installed in the shipsin September of the same year. Thesetwo ships were the first in maritimehistory to be powered by turbo -charged engines.

    As important as this event was, how-ever, we have to go back three yearsto trace the first-ever industrialexhaust gas turbocharger.

    Worlds first heavy-duty


    In 1923 Swiss Locomotive andMachine Works (SLM), like Sulzerbased in Winterthur, was also seri-

    How turbocharging works

    The output of an internal combus-tion engine is determined by theamount of air and fuel that can bepressed into its cylinders and bythe engines speed. Turbochargerssupply air to the engine at a highpressure, so more air is forced intothe cylinders and is available forcombustion.

    An exhaust gas turbocharger isdriven, as its name suggests, by theengines exhaust gas . This gas, at a temperature approaching600 C, is directed at high velocityonto the blades of a turbine ,which drives a compressor wheel mounted on the same shaft. As itrotates, the wheel (or impeller),sucks in ambient air through a filter-silencer, compresses it andfeeds it via an after-cooler to theengines air re ceiver , from whereit passes to the cylinders.

    Turbocharging increases engine out-put by up to four times. Thus, 75 percent of engine power isdependent upon the turbocharger.

    Worlds first turbocharger for a large diesel engine. Delivered in 1924, it had external plain bearings and a two-stage compressor for a pressure ratio of 1.35.

  • C E N T E N A