Posted: August 10, 2011 in Turbochargers


     Back in the day, most aftermarket and factory turbocharger systems featured simple log-style exhaust manifolds. But just like on normally aspirated engines, where exhaust manifold design has become recognized as a critical element to maximizing horsepower and torque output, there has been increasing attention paid to turbocharger and turbo manifold design. Divided or “twin-scroll” turbos and manifolds have emerged as the preferred design of many of the top tuners and even OEMs, showing up on high-performance models like the Mitsubishi EVO, Pontiac Solstice GXP and JDM Impreza STI. But what exactly are the differences between single-scroll (or constant pressure) turbo systems and twin-scroll (or two-pulse) turbo systems and how do these design differences impact overall engine performance?

     Single-scroll systems have been in use for a long time, and for good reason. These systems are generally compact, inexpensive and extremely durable under the high heat they’re exposed to. So from a simplicity of design, packaging and reliability standpoint, a single-scroll, constant-pressure turbo system is quite appealing-especially to the OEMs that must consider more than just power production. Although log-style or simple unequal-length turbo manifolds used by the OEMs can be tweaked for improved performance or replaced by a more sophisticated equal-length aftermarket manifold, this doesn’t change the fact that there’s a single exhaust gas inlet to the turbo’s “hot side” turbine (which powers the “cold side” compressor, force feeding a denser and therefore more oxygen-rich air charge into the combustion chamber from the intake side). Because of this design limitation, single-scroll systems are not particularly efficient at low engine speeds or high loads. This decreased turbine efficiency contributes to turbo lag, something we’ve all probably experienced while driving a stock turbocharged vehicle.

     One of the biggest limitations of most factory single-scroll turbo system is the restrictive nature of its log or compact unequal-length exhaust manifold. Keep in mind, the purpose of this manifold isn’t just to channel exhaust gases to the turbocharger’s turbine wheel; the manifold must be designed to allow exhaust gases to exit the combustion chamber of each cylinder quickly and efficiently. Also keep in mind that these exhaust gases do not flow in a smooth stream because the gas exits each cylinder based on the engine’s firing sequence, resulting in distinct exhaust gas pulses. Next time you fire up your car, place your hand lightly over the exhaust tip (before it gets hot!) and you will feel these pulses. With a log-style or compact OE-style, unequal-length runner exhaust manifold like you’ll find on SR20DET or USDM STI engines, the pulse from one cylinder can interfere with subsequent exhaust gas pulses as they enter the manifold from the other cylinders, inhibiting scavenging (where the high-pressure pulse draws the lower pressure gases behind it out of the combustion chamber with it) and increasing reversion (where exhaust gas flow is disturbed so much that its direction of travel reverses and pollutes the combustion chambers with hot exhaust gases). The trapped and wasted kinetic exhaust gas energy from poor scavenging and too much reversion also means higher combustion and exhaust backpressure.

     The concept is to DIVIDE or separate the cylinders whose cycles interfere with one another to best utilize the engine’s exhaust pulse energy.

     For example, on a four-cylinder engine with firing order 1-3-4-2, cylinder #1 is ending its expansion stroke and opening its exhaust valve while cylinder #2 still has its exhaust valve open (cylinder #2 is in its overlap period). In an undivided exhaust manifold, this pressure pulse from cylinder #1’s exhaust blowdown event is much more likely to contaminate cylinder #2 with high pressure exhaust gas. Not only does this hurt cylinder #2’s ability to breathe properly, but this pulse energy would have been better utilized in the turbine.

     The proper grouping for this engine is to keep complementary cylinders grouped together– #1 and #4 are complementary; as are cylinders #2 and #3.



     Twin-scroll turbo system design addresses many of the shortcomings of single-scroll turbo systems by separating those cylinders whose exhaust gas pulses interfere with each other. Similar in concept to pairing cylinders on race headers for normally aspirated engines, twin-scroll design pairs cylinders to one side of the turbine inlet such that the kinetic energy from the exhaust gases is recovered more efficiently by the turbine. For example, if a four-cylinder engine’s firing sequence is 1-3-4-2, cylinder 1 is ending its expansion stroke and opening its exhaust valves while cylinder 2 still has its exhaust valves open (while in its overlap period, where both the intake and exhaust valves are partially open at the same time). In a single-scroll or undivided manifold, the exhaust gas pressure pulse from cylinder 1 is therefore going to interfere with cylinder 2’s ability to expel its exhaust gases, rather than delivering it undisturbed to the turbo’s turbine the way a twin-scroll system allows.

    The result of the superior scavenging effect from a twin-scroll design is better pressure distribution in the exhaust ports and more efficient delivery of exhaust gas energy to the turbocharger’s turbine. This in turn allows greater valve overlap, resulting in an improved quality and quantity of the air charge entering each cylinder. In fact, with more valve overlap, the scavenging effect of the exhaust flow can literally draw more air in on the intake side while drawing out the last of the low-pressure exhaust gases, helping pack each cylinder with a denser and purer air charge. And as we all know, a denser and purer air charge means stronger combustion and more power, and more power is good!

     But the benefits of twin-scroll design don’t end there. With its greater volumetric efficiency and stronger scavenging effect, higher ignition delay can be used, which helps keep peak temperature in the cylinders down. Since cooler cylinder temperatures and lower exhaust gas temperatures allows for a leaner air/fuel ratio, twin-scroll turbo design has been shown to increase turbine efficiency by 7-8 percent and result in fuel efficiency improvements as high as 5 percent.

     Combine these benefits with a well-engineered tubular equal-length manifold and the design strengths of a twin-scroll approach can pay even bigger dividends. “Equal length” simply refers to the length of the primary exhaust manifold tubes or runners that the cylinder head exhaust ports breath out into, which should ideally be of equal length before merging at a narrow angle at the collector so that the gases flow smoothly together into the turbine inlet. This helps maintain exhaust gas pulse energy, resulting in better boost response and overall higher turbo efficiency.

  1. Garrett Cox says:

    Great infomation! Ill keep watching for updates

  2. Bo Petersen says:

    If you are a “specialist” how come you call this a twin scroll turbo when its clearly a twin entry turbo?

    the definition of twin scroll is a variable nozzle structure inside the turbine.

    • Mr. Peterson,
      Lets see if we can define what a variable-vane(also referred to as variable-geometry or variable-nozzle) turbo is. Instead of using two turbochargers in different sizes, some engines use a single turbocharger, called variable-geometry or variable-nozzle turbos; these turbos use a set of vanes in the exhaust housing to maintain a constant gas velocity across the turbine, the same kind of control as used on power plant turbines. Such turbochargers have minimal lag like a small conventional turbocharger and can achieve full boost as low as 1,500 engine rpm, yet remain efficient as a large conventional turbocharger at higher engine speeds. In many setups, these turbos do not use a wastegate. The vanes are controlled by a membrane identical to the one on a wastegate, but the mechanism operates the variable vane system instead. These variable turbochargers are commonly used in diesel engines.
      Unfortunately, this article does not discuss the topic of such a turbine housing design. I suppose one may use the terminology of ‘twin entry’ turbo as the turbine housing is certainly divided into two distinct sections with exhaust gases entering in equal proportions, however, every reputable turbocharger manufacturer refers to the divided turbine housings as ‘twin scroll’. I wish you to find this information as educational. Thank you for your inquiry Mr. Peterson and yes, we certainly are specialists.

  3. sld says:

    Great information!

  4. bmw olje says:

    motorna olja Good post, thank you. Do you have a Facebook account?

  5. Jaz says:

    I also would like to say, the bottom picture is not of true twin scroll, but that of a twin entry. And manufatures selling a twin entry twin scroll, not noting that are in my opinion riping people off, and getting away with it by stating this is the terminolgy used.

    Get with the times, this is a twin entry, twin scroll. NOT a full twin scroll.

    • Thank you, sir, for your comment. The terminology of ‘twin scroll’, ‘divided’ or even ‘twin entry’ describe the different types of turbine housings set forth by reputable manufacturers of turbochargers such as Garrett, and even reputable automotive manufacturers such as BMW. ‘Turbotech 101′,’102’, and ‘103’ are articles on the website that helps define components and also turbo selection for any application. Thank you again, sir, for your comments and also your opinions.

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  21. J.W. Molenaar says:

    Is it possible to divide the turbo housing helix in two part, two radial entry opposit of each other, both using half of the number of guidevanes. In this way every cylinder of a four cylinder engine has its own part of the vanes and equal length of entry pipes is not necessary anymore. Twinscroll divide the Helix axialy while this divide the Helix radial in two times two parts.

    • Thank you for the question. The function of this type of exhaust design is to allow the pulse waves from companion cylinders the opportnity to assist in spooling the turbine wheel evenly. By doing so, this will promote a faster response of the turbine wheel resulting in better low end performance. Any modification to the turbine housing or manifold that causes the pulse waves to deminish would certainly result in a less than desireable low end response. Essentially, more like the design of a single scroll turbocharger.

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