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Compressor vs. Supercharger: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on September 23, 2023
A compressor is a mechanical device that increases the pressure of a gas by reducing its volume, while a supercharger is an air compressor that increases the pressure or density of air supplied to an internal combustion engin

Key Differences

A compressor is a broad term referring to any device that increases the pressure of a gas by decreasing its volume. Compressors are used in various applications and industries such as refrigeration, air conditioning, and industrial processes. They work by capturing air and compressing it, which can be achieved through various methods like piston, rotary screw, or centrifugal compressors. Compressors are pivotal in numerous operations where the pressurization of gas is essential, and they can be powered by electric motors, diesel engines, or gas turbines.
A supercharger, on the other hand, is a specific type of compressor designed to increase the pressure or density of air entering an internal combustion engine. This increase in air density allows more oxygen to enter the combustion chamber, thus enabling more fuel to be burned and, consequently, increasing the engine's power output. Superchargers are typically driven by the engine via a belt, gear, shaft, or chain connected to the crankshaft and are common in high-performance and racing automobiles to enhance power and efficiency.
In essence, while compressors serve a range of applications, focusing on altering gas pressure for various needs, superchargers are specialized compressors with a primary purpose of enhancing the performance of internal combustion engines by forcing more air into the combustion chamber. The utilization of compressors is vast and spans multiple industries, making them indispensable in many areas where gas manipulation is needed.
Conversely, superchargers have a concentrated application in the automotive industry, mainly targeting the augmentation of engine capabilities. Superchargers are integral in optimizing the performance of vehicles by enabling the burning of more fuel efficiently, thereby leading to the enhancement of the power generated by the engine.
In summary, the term "compressor" encompasses a variety of devices, all aimed at increasing gas pressure for diverse applications, while "supercharger" refers specifically to a compressor used to boost the performance of internal combustion engines by increasing air density and, therefore, fuel combustion.

Comparison Chart


Increases the pressure of gas by reducing its volume.
Increases the density of air supplied to an internal combustion engine.


Used in various industries and applications.
Predominantly used in automotive industry for performance enhancement.


Can compress air or other gases.
Specifically compresses air for internal combustion engines.

Driving Mechanism

Powered by electric motors, diesel engines, or gas turbines.
Typically driven by the engine via a belt, gear, shaft, or chain.


Broad and diverse, serving multiple purposes.
Specialized, with a focus on enhancing engine performance.

Compressor and Supercharger Definitions


A mechanical device that increases the pressure of a gas.
The compressor in the air conditioning unit ensures the refrigerant is at the right pressure.


A device driven by an engine to force more air into the combustion chamber.
With the addition of a supercharger, the vehicle experienced a notable increase in horsepower.


A machine that reduces the volume of gas, increasing its pressure.
The compressor in the refrigerator keeps the refrigerant flowing effectively.


A performance-enhancing equipment that compresses air for better fuel combustion.
Installing a supercharger is a popular modification among car enthusiasts seeking more power.


A piece of equipment designed to pressurize gas for various applications.
A powerful compressor is crucial for the optimal operation of pneumatic tools.


A specialized compressor that boosts the efficiency and power output of an engine.
The supercharger ensures that more oxygen reaches the combustion chamber for optimal fuel burning.


A device that manipulates the pressure level of the enclosed gas.
The malfunctioning compressor affected the overall efficiency of the HVAC system.


An air compressor used to increase the density of air supplied to an internal combustion engine.
The supercharger allows more air to enter the engine, improving the car's performance.


An apparatus used to compress air or other gases.
The compressor in the industrial plant is essential for maintaining the production line.


A blower or compressor, usually driven by the engine, for supplying air under high pressure to the cylinders of an internal-combustion engine.


A pump or other machine that increases the pressure of a gas.


An inlet air compressor for an internal combustion engine (either Otto or Diesel cycle).


An instrument or device that compresses, such as a forceps or clamp.


(most commonly) Such a compressor which is specifically powered from the crankshaft.


A muscle that causes compression of a body part.


A device that can rapidly recharge a battery cell/pack.


A device that produces pressure, such as a gas compressor that produces pressurized gas.


Compressor that forces increased oxygen into the cylinders of an internal-combustion engine


A device that squeezes (compresses).


An apparatus in vehicles that intensifies engine power by allowing more fuel to burn.
The vehicle's acceleration improved dramatically with the newly installed supercharger.


An instrument for compressing an artery (especially the femoral artery) or other part.


An apparatus for confining or flattening between glass plates an object to be examined with the microscope; a compressorium.


A machine for compressing gases, especially an air compressor.


(audio) A device that reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal.


(anatomy) A muscle that compresses certain parts.


(computing) A program or algorithm for compressing data.


Anything which serves to compress


A mechanical device that compresses gasses


Can a compressor be used as a supercharger?

While all superchargers are compressors, not all compressors are suited to act as superchargers.

Can a compressor be used in refrigeration?

Yes, compressors are essential components in refrigeration systems.

Are compressors only used for air?

No, compressors can be used for a variety of gases depending on the application.

Do all performance cars have superchargers?

No, not all performance cars have superchargers; many use turbochargers or are naturally aspirated.

Can superchargers be added to any car?

While many engines can accommodate superchargers, not all are suitable, and modifications may be needed.

Are compressors used in industrial applications?

Yes, compressors are widely used in various industrial applications for different purposes.

Is a supercharger more efficient than a turbocharger?

It depends; superchargers provide immediate power, but turbochargers are generally more efficient as they use exhaust gases.

Is the maintenance of a compressor complicated?

Maintenance complexity can vary, but regular checks and servicing are generally recommended.

Do all compressors need an external power source?

Most compressors need a power source like an electric motor or engine, but some utilize other gases or fluids.

How does a supercharger increase horsepower?

By forcing more air into the combustion chamber, allowing more fuel to be burned, thus increasing horsepower.

Does a supercharger consume more fuel?

Yes, as superchargers allow more fuel to burn, fuel consumption can increase.

Is installing a supercharger safe for the engine?

If installed correctly and used with the right engine, a supercharger can be safe but may increase wear.

Can compressors operate continuously?

Some compressors can operate continuously, but others may need rest periods to prevent overheating.

Is it difficult to install a supercharger?

Installation complexity can vary, and it’s usually recommended to have a professional install it.

What industries are compressors most commonly used in?

Compressors are commonly used in HVAC, manufacturing, automotive, and oil & gas industries.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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