An intercooler, or charge air cooler and after cooler among Americans, is basically a radiator that is designed to emit cool or hot air from the turbocharger. Since compressing air raises its temperature to more or less 150 F, the intercooler works hand in hand with turbocharger. An intercooler is a heat-exchange device for air to air or air to liquid and is used on supercharged and turbocharged internal combustion engines that aim to enhance the volumetric efficiency of an engine by increasing intake of air charge density through almost constant pressure cooling.
A decrease of air intake temperature provides a denser intake charge to the engine, which offers more fuel and air to burn per engine cycle. This process increases the output of the engine, while the intercoolers increase the efficiency of the induction system by induction reduction of air heat created by the turbocharger, which then promotes complete combustion process.
Intercooler Description and Design
The design, including the shape and size of an intercooler, would depend on the performance and space requirements of the entire supercharger system and of the whole vehicle. Every intercooler can be cooled with an air-to-liquid system, an air-to-air system, or a combination of the two systems. The most used spatial designs include:
- FMIC or front Mounted Intercoolers
- TMIC or Top Mounted Intercoolers
- HMIC or Hybrid Mount Intercoolers
How an Intercooler Works
Superchargers and turbochargers are made and designed to force more air mass toward the engine's intake manifold and combustion chamber. An intercooler, on the other hand, is made to compensate and balance the heat produced by supercharging, a natural byproduct of the semi-adiabatic compression process. Excessive air pressure can lead to increased hot intake charge, which reduces the performance gains of supercharging due to a decrease in density. The increase of intake charge temperature can also contribute to the increase of cylinder combustion temperature causing detonation, heat damage to an engine block, and excessive wear.
With an intercooler properly installed in your truck or vehicle, the temperature that is brought about by the heat rejection and pressure out of flow restriction of fins are reduced when the compressed and heated intake charge passes through the intercooler. If properly installed, the large decrease in temperature would be greater than the relative loss in pressure, which could result to a net increase in density. This process would increase the intercooler system performance by getting some of the losses of the inefficient compression process by rejecting heat to the external environment.
Additional Cooling Methods and Intercooler Locations
You can enhance your cooling system by spraying externally a fine mist on the intercooler surface or even into the intake air itself. This is done to reduce further the intake charge temperature through evaporative cooling. For intercoolers that directly exchange their heat with the atmosphere, they are designed to be placed in areas of a vehicle with maximum air flow. These intercooler types has front mounted systems or FMIC.
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