Mass flow rate

Mass Flow Rate is the mass of air flowing through a compressor (and engine!) over a given period of time and is commonly expressed as lb/min (pounds per minute). Mass flow can be physically measured, but in many cases it is sufficient to estimate the mass flow for choosing the proper turbo.

Many people use Volumetric Flow Rate (expressed in cubic feet per minute, CFM or ft3/min)) instead of mass flow rate. Volumetric flow rate can be converted to mass flow by multiplying by the air density. Air density at sea level is 0.076lb/ft3

  • What is my mass flow rate? As a very general rule, turbocharged gasoline engines will generate 9.5-10.5 horsepower (as measured at the flywheel) for each lb/min of airflow. So, an engine with a target peak horsepower of 400 Hp will require 36-44 lb/min of airflow to achieve that target. This is just a rough first approximation to help narrow the turbo selection options.