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Modern turbofans have either a large single-stage fan or a smaller fan with several stages. An early configuration combined a low-pressure turbine and fan in a single rear-mounted unit.

Turbofans were invented to circumvent an awkward feature of turbojets, which was that they were inefficient for subsonic flight. To raise the efficiency of a turbojet, the obvious approach would be to increase the burner temperature, to give better Carnot efficiency and fit larger compressors and nozzles. However, while that does increase thrust somewhat, the exhaust jet leaves the engine with even higher velocity, which at subsonic flight speeds, takes most of the extra energy with it, wasting fuel.

Instead, a turbofan can be thought of as a turbojet being used to drive a ducted fan , with both of those contributing to the thrust . Whereas all the air taken in by a turbojet passes through the turbine (through the combustion chamber ), in a turbofan some of that air bypasses the turbine.

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