Thursday, December 18, 2008
An intercooler, or charge air cooler, is an air-to-air or air-to-liquid heat exchange device used on turbocharged and supercharged (forced induction) internal combustion engines to improve their volumetric efficiency by increasing intake air charge density through isochoric cooling. A decrease in air intake temperature provides a denser intake charge to the engine and allows more air and fuel to be combusted per engine cycle, increasing the output of the engine.
The inter prefix in the device name originates from historic compressor designs. In the past, aircraft engines were built with charge air coolers that were installed between multiple stages of supercharging, thus the designation of inter. Modern automobile designs are technically designated aftercoolers because of their placement at the end of supercharging chain. This term is now considered archaic in modern automobile terminology since most forced induction vehicles have single-stage superchargers or turbochargers. In a vehicle fitted with two-stage turbocharging, it is possible to have both an intercooler (between the two turbocharger units) and an aftercooler (between the second-stage turbo and the engine). The JCB Dieselmax land speed record-holding car is an example of such a system. In general, an intercooler or aftercooler is said to be a charge air cooler.
Intercoolers can vary dramatically in size, shape, and design, depending on the performance and space requirements of the entire supercharger system. Common spatial designs are front mounted intercoolers (FMIC), top mounted intercoolers (TMIC), hybrid mount intercoolers (HMIC). Each type can be cooled with an air-to-air system, air-to-liquid system, or a combination of both.
Many older turbo-charged cars, such as the Toyota Supra (JZA80 only), Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo, Nissan 200SX (S13/14/14a/15), Mitsubishi 3000gt, Saab 900, Volkswagen, Audi TT, and Turbo Mitsubishi Eclipse use side-mounted air-to-air intercoolers (SMIC), which are mounted in the front corner of the bumper or in front of one of the wheels. Side-mounted intercoolers are generally smaller, mainly due to space constraints, and sometimes two are used to gain the performance of a larger, single intercooler. Cars such as the Subaru Impreza WRX, MINI Cooper S, Toyota Celica GT-Four, Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, MAZDASPEED3, MAZDASPEED6 and the PSA Peugeot Citroën turbo diesels, use air-to-air top mounted intercoolers (TMIC) located on top of the engine. Air is directed through the intercooler through the use of a hood scoop. In the case of the PSA cars the air intake is the grille above the front bumper, then flows through under-hood ducting. Top mounted intercoolers sometimes suffer from heat diffusion due to proximity with the engine, warming them and reducing their overall efficiency. Some World Rally Championship cars use a reverse-induction system design whereby air is forced through ducts in the front bumper to a horizontally-mounted intercooler.