ABB sponsors $5,000 essay contest to boost interest in turbochargers

ABB is seeking students for an essay contest to describe just how Swiss engineer Alfred Buechi’s 1905 invention – the turbocharger – transformed the world.

Though many people know the turbocharger as a power booster for automobiles or airplanes, the impact of Buechi’s invention extends well beyond that to power plants, locomotives, mining and construction and the growing maritime industry. The world’s biggest ships rely on turbochargers from ABB to boost fuel efficiency and cut emissions.

The fact is, ABB turbochargers deep within the engine rooms of container ships including the MSC Oscar – with a payload equivalent to more than 11,500 heavy trucks – help make the global economy possible. That’s why the significance of Buechi’s device, patented in 1905 in an era when engine makers were desperately seeking a performance-boosting breakthrough, continues to multiply.

110th anniversary

To honor the 110th anniversary of the turbocharger, ABB’s Turbocharging business in Baden, Switzerland – just down the road from where Buechi once labored on his big idea – is sponsoring a $5,000 essay contest for full-time students at institutions of higher education. We’re asking them to describe the impact of turbocharging technology on the world, in between 750 to 1,200 words, and send their work back to us.

Maybe they’ll focus on the impact of the oil crisis in the early 1970s in helping spur advances in the turbocharging industry – and how new drivers like environmental regulations and emission limits are leading to more changes today. Maybe they’ll focus on how turbochargers reduce the cost of goods shipped thousands of miles.

The main thing is, we want to hear from them.

ABB, whose turbocharging business offers more than 100 service centers in more than 50 countries, isn’t sponsoring this essay just because it thinks the turbocharger is an amazing device, although it’s all that and more. The idea behind this effort – and putting up the prize money, to boot – is to energize talented, up-and-coming engineers and familiarize them with ABB turbocharging products and technology.

New generation

Quite frankly, in many of ABB’s turbocharging markets, people in influential, decision-making roles are heading into well-earned retirements. That means, of course, that a whole new generation must step into their big shoes, regardless of whether it’s in the oil and gas industry, power or global shipping.

And we want this new generation to know more about ABB’s unique turbocharging offering. After all, we’ve been in this space a long time: ABB and Buechi together in 1924 developed the world’s first heavy-duty turbocharger; a year later, ABB supplied the first turbocharger to a passenger ship, the Hansestadt Danzig.

We also want them to know that we never stopped innovating: Today, ABB turbochargers aboard the MSC Oscar boost its engines’ efficiency by 75 percent, about double the performance hike of Buechi’s first turbochargers, while cutting fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by nearly two-thirds.

Ultimately, we want students to know how they can be part of the bold future of turbocharging, which looks brighter than ever in a world that demands not merely power but energy efficiency.

Categories and Tags
About the author

Marco Burgwal

Marco Burgwal graduated in 1995 in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in Haarlem, The Netherlands. He worked as a technical superintendent at a Dutch shipping company before joining ABB Turbocharging in 2002. After a six-year spell in Japan that included heading the West Japan turbocharger service business, he returned in 2008 to join the global medium-speed sales and application engineering department in Baden, Switzerland, which he has headed since 2011.
Comment on this article