Though they both exists to push extra air into an engine for increased horsepower, superchargers and turbo-superchargers (as they are properly known) go about it in two very different ways.
Superchargers were originally developed in 1860 as a mechanical device to feed coal blast furnaces. Turbochargers were patented in 1905 and first used in 1920 to enhance the output of diesel freighters and locomotives.
Both designs are used to feed pressurized air to an internal combustion engine. More air pressure equals more oxygen, and more oxygen makes for a more powerful engine.
A supercharger uses a belt, chain or gear connected to the crankshaft to turn its compressor. A turbocharger uses the heat and pressure of exhaust gases to power its compressor.
Positive vs. Centrifugal
Traditional superchargers are positive displacement designs, meaning that they move the same amount of air for every rotation of their compressor blades. Turbos and modern centrifugal superchargers move less air at low speed per revolution than they do when spinning faster.
As their speed is directly proportionate to engine RPM, superchargers make boost all the time and are best for torque and acceleration. Turbos are used to make high RPM power.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Chris Watson
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