Exhaust System Efficiency

Part of getting a large fuel/air charge into the cylinder (volumetric efficiency) has to do with getting the combustion products of the previous cycle out of the cylinder. At first thought, it would seem that simply making the exhaust valve bigger would help get the combustion products out. As it turns out, the exhaust valve can be as small as 50% the size of the intake valve without affecting the volumetric efficiency over the usual range of inlet Mach speed. Normally the exhaust valves are at least 60% the size of the intake valve. This effect may arise because the combustion products are “pushed” out of the exhaust port by the piston, while the fuel/air charge is “sucked” in the intake port, pushed only by the manifold pressure.

To enhance the removal of the combustion gasses, the intake valve is opened prior to the end of the exhaust stroke. Since both valves are open at this point, this is referred to as valve overlap. If the pressure in the intake manifold is greater than the pressure in the exhaust manifold, the in rushing fuel/air charge will help scavenge the remaining combustion products in the cylinder as the piston reaches top dead center by pushing them out the exhaust port. While some of the fuel/air charge may go out the exhaust port, an engine tuner tries to design the timing such that the exhaust valve closes just as the last of the combustion gasses leave the exhaust port. An additional benefit of valve overlap is that the intake valve is essentially fully open at the start of the intake stroke, thus reducing the pressure loss through the intake port during the intake stroke. The angle that the crankshaft turns between the intake valve opening and the exhaust valve closing is called the valve overlap angle.

Of course, scavenging does not occur at all speeds. At low speeds, the throttle valve reduces the pressure in the intake manifold, such that the intake manifold pressure is less than the exhaust manifold pressure. In this case, a small portion of the combustion products enter the intake manifold, to be pulled back into the cylinder on the intake stroke. Additionally, the combustion gasess in the space above the piston at top dead center are not scavenged. Even so, at low power settings this is not a problem.

CONCLUSION- In general, we have seen that the torque, and thus the horsepower produced by an engine depends on the amount of air that can be pumped through the engine. The more fuel/air charge drawn into the cylinder, the higher the volumetric efficiency. The higher the volumetric efficiency, the higher the torque. The biggest factor affecting the volumetric efficiency is the valve timing, specifically the valve overlap angle and the intake valve closing angle. Volumetric efficiency can also be improved by the intake manifold design. Since the camshaft used determines the valve timing, changing the camshaft will change the shape of the torque curve, and thus the horsepower curve.

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