Efficiencies – Volumetric Efficiency

in Aircraft Engines

Volumetric efficiency is a ratio expressed in terms of percentages. It is a comparison of the volume of fuel/air charge (corrected for temperature and pressure) inducted into the cylinders to the total piston displacement of the engine. Various factors cause departure from a 100 percent volumetric efficiency. The pistons of an naturally aspirated engine displace the same volume each time they travel from top center to bottom center of the cylinders. The amount of charge that fills this volume on the intake stroke depends on the existing pressure and temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. Therefore, to find the volumetric efficiency of an engine, standards for atmospheric pressure and temperature had to be established. The U.S. standard atmosphere was established in 1958 and provides the necessary pressure and temperature values to calculate volumetric efficiency.

The standard sea level temperature is 59 °F, or 15 °C. At this temperature, the pressure of one atmosphere is 14.69 lb/ in2, and this pressure supports a column of mercury (Hg) 29.92 inches high, or 29.92 “Hg. These standard sea level conditions determine a standard density, and if the engine draws in a volume of charge of this density exactly equal to its piston displacement, it is said to be operating at 100 percent volumetric efficiency. An engine drawing in less volume than this has a volumetric efficiency lower than 100 percent. An engine equipped with true supercharging (boost above 30.00 “Hg) may have a volumetric efficiency greater than 100 percent. The equation for volumetric efficiency is:


Many factors decrease volumetric efficiency, including:

  • Part-throttle operation
  • Long intake pipes of small diameter
  • Sharp bends in the induction system
  • Carburetor air temperature too high
  • Cylinder-head temperature too high
  • Incomplete scavenging
  • Improper valve timing