Exhaust Performance Criteria
When the piston approaches top dead center the spark plug fires a spark kernel igniting the fuel mixture into a fireball just as the piston rocks over into the power stroke. The piston transfers the energy of the expanding gases to the crankshaft as the exhaust valve starts to open in the last part of the power stroke.
The gas pressure is still high (70 to 90 p.s.i.) causing a rapid escape of the gases. A pressure wave is now generated as the valve continues to open. Gases can flow at an average speed of over 350 ft/sec, but the pressure wave travels at the speed of sound (Mach 1) and is dependent on the gas temperature. The expanding exhaust gases now rush into the port and down into the primary header pipe and then the gases and waves converge at the collector. In the collector, the gases expand quickly as the waves enter into all of the available orifices including the other primary tubes. The gases and some of the wave energy flow into the collector outlet and out the exhaust pipe.
Due to the above there are two basic phenomenon that are created in the exhaust system, gas particle movement and pressure wave activity. The absolute pressure difference between the cylinder and the atmosphere determines gas particle speed. When the gases travel down the pipe and expand their speed decreases. The pressure waves, base their speed on the speed of sound (Mach 1). The wave speed also decreases as they travel down the pipe due to gas cooling, the speed will increase again as the wave is reflected back up the pipe towards the cylinder. All the time the speed of the wave action is much greater than the speed of the gas particles.
Waves behave much differently than gas particles when a junction is encountered in the pipe. When two or more pipes come together such as in a collector, the waves travel into all of the available pipes backwards as well as forwards. Waves are also reflected back up the original pipe, but with a negative pressure. The strength of the wave reflection is based on the area change compared to the area of the originating pipe.
The reflecting negative pulse energy is the basis of wave action tuning. The concept is to time the negative wave pulse reflection to coincide with the period of overlap this low pressure will pull in a fresh intake charge as the intake valve is opening and helps to remove the residual exhaust gases before the exhaust valve closes. This phenomenon is controlled by the length of the primary header pipe. Due to the critical timing aspect of this tuning technique, there may be areas of the power curve that may be harmed.
The gas speed characteristics is a double edged sword. Too much gas speed indicates that that the system may be too restrictive hurting top end power and too little gas speed tends to make the power curve very peaky hurting low end torque. Larger diameter tubes allow the gases to expand and this will cool the gases by slowing down both the gases and the waves.
Exhaust system design is a balance all of these events and their timing. Even with the best compromise of exhaust pipe diameter and length, the collector outlet sizing can optimize or minimize the best design.
The bottom line on any racing exhaust system is to develop the most useful power curve. the final design is how the engine responds to the exhaust tuning on both the dyno and on the race track.
The following components must be considered, Header primary pipe diameter whether constant size or stepped pipes, the primary pipe overall length, the collector design including the number of pipes per collector and the outlet sizing and the megaphone design.
The header pipe sizing and the primary pipe sizing is related to exhaust valve and port size. A header pipe length is dependent on wave tuning. Usually longer pipes tune for lower r.p.m. power and the shorter pipes favor high r.p.m. power. The collector package is dependent on the number of cylinders, and their configuration firing order and their design objectives and the collector outlet size is determined by primary pipe size and exhaust cam timing.