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The History of the Internal Combustion Engine

Updated on September 30, 2013

First Petrol Engine Motorcylce by Gottlieb Daimler & Wilhelm Maybach | Source

How It All May Have Ignited

Internal Combustion Engine, as the name implies, is when fuel is ignited and burnt inside an internal combustion engine and the most usual type of fuel is petrol, diesel or gas, as in a gas turbine. The earliest internal engines were invented by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir (1822-1900) in the mid 19th century using coal gas as fuel. Gas turbine engines (ones in a jet) were devised for some aircraft during the Second World War and are now used in many naval ships, aircraft, tanks and speedboats. A petrol (gasoline) combustion engine was devised by Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900) and Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929) IN 1885. A couple of years later, a diesel engine was invented between 1893-97 by Rudolf C. Karl Diesel (1858-1913), a German mechanical engineer.

The First Diesel Engine by Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel | Source

The Principles of the Three Engine Types

The principle involved in all three types of engine is that fuel is burned to produce extremely hot air which is put to work to produce movement. In general, a distinctive petrol engine is made up of a cylinder into which a mixture of fuel and air is drawn by a piston, and this is called the induction stroke. Then the piston compresses the fuel and air mixture inside the cylinder. It is ignited by a spark plug connected to the cylinder producing a small explosion and very hot gases, and this action is called the power stroke. Finally the piston rises again and waste exhaust gases are forced out of the cylinder, this is called the exhaust stroke. The whole process is continually repeated and this type of engine is known as a four-stroke engine.

Engines generally have more than one cylinder, the pistons moving rapidly in series turning a crankshaft which is connected to the wheels of a vehicle or propeller of a boat.The fuel in a petrol engine is ignited by an electrical spark from the spark. Diesel engines are similar in that the fuel and air is mixed within a cylinder. However, diesel is a heavier oil than petrol and when it is compressed, it becomes extremely hot. This heat, produced by pressure, is great enough to ignite the fuel in an explosive manner, and the hot air produced is used to drive the moving parts.

A Typical Diesel Engine (public domain) (public domain) | Source

There are no cylinders or pistons in a gas turbine engine. The popular name of jet engine comes from the jet of gas which is expelled once the fuel has been burnt.

Diagram of How a Gas Turbine Jet Engine Operates | Source


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