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Birth of I.C Engine.

Updated on September 8, 2017

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What is an I.C Engine and the difference with Steam Engine.

What is I.C Engine?

It means "Internal Combustion" Engine. Its a type of Heat Engine which uses the heat to produce Physical Work output (i.e same for Steam Engine), but the Combustion of the Fuel (i.e produces the heat for the engine to work) takes place inside the Engine it self.

Many people has a wrong idea about internal Combustion engine and Steam Engine, they think that Steam engine is also an I.C engine. But Steam Engine is not an I.C engine its called External Combustion (in short E.C) engine as it uses Steam developed from a Boiler using external heat source or fuel combustion.

Many People get confused with the term "I.C" because in Electronics its widely used term and means "Integrated Circuit" but the I.C engine is nothing like "Integrated Circuit".

The process of IC engine is not very simple as it needs many different parts coupled very carefully to work properly. In an IC engine the fuel is Supplied in to the cylinder and there the combustion occurs and the energy releases which is used to drive the automotive. It can be stated very simply but its not as simple as it sounds.

There are two types of IC engine according to their ignition method.

1) SI engine or Spark Ignition Engine

2) CI engine or Compression Ignition Engine.

Now questions may be asked about the differences between them. I would tell that answer lies in the name. The naming was done to signify their method. If we elaborate the names we can easily tell why its called by that name.

Spark Ignition it suggests that there must be a spark to ignite the fuel. And its true, in SI engine the spark plug is used to ignite the fuel after compression stroke, to create the explosion in the cylinder so the engine gets the energy to move.

Compression Ignition it suggests that there must be a step of high compression to compress the air to heated up so high that if fuel added to it, it will explode. There is no need of spark plug but a higher compression ratio and a fuel injector.


Most people calls an engine by "Petrol engine" or "Diesel Engine". Whereas theoretically there is no such engine. According to the method of combustion the engine's are called S.I or C.I engine. "Petrol Engine" Can also be called "Gasoline engine" or "Otto Engine" as it uses Petrol/Gasoline as its fuel and according to the Inventor's name of this type of Engine (i.e Nicholas Otto) respectively. As Petrol engine uses Spark Ignition so it's a SI engine.

Similarly "Diesel Engine" was named according to the name of the Inventor of this engine (i.e Rudolph Diesel), but basically its a Compression Ignition engine.

Revolution from Steam Engine To IC Engine

The Steam Engine was Invented first as it uses the 1st Law of Thermodynamics and simply uses the water to create steam using boiler.Boiler uses fuel like coal, oil for burning and producing heat which is used to develop the steam. This steam is supplied in the steam engine and the reciprocating parts moves to and fro to give the cyclic motion toward the output shaft.

Steam engine is still used in almost 90% power plant. But during 18th century it was used in Auto-motives like rail's engine, and smaller transportation vehicles too. But for small vehicles it was not a suitable engine, as its weight-power ratio was too high, as a result private car, or small vehicles development was not possible using Steam Engine. Though Many inventor tried to adopt steam engine in smaller vehicles but the results were not very satisfactory for mass production.

Then in 1860 the development of IC engine was started. Through Continuous processes of development the modern IC engine came in existence. Though the theory for the IC engine was developed before 1860, in 1824 when Sadi Carnot Developed a cycle called Carnot cycle. Which was then followed by many different idea's from different inventor's all over the world. Inventor's like Nikolaus Otto, Rudolf Diesel, James Atkinson, George Bailey Brayton focused to invent a new type of engine which will have more efficiency, power and less weight.

In 1876 the first SI engine or Petrol Engine came in Real form by the German Inventor Nikolaus August Otto.

In 1897 the first Diesel Engine Prototype became ready for manufacturing which was made by German inventor Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel.

The main reason of Development of IC engine driven automotive was the efficiency and the speed, as it has formidable speed and Efficiency than its predecessor (i.e Steam engine).

But now the Modern Automotive industry is not confined in the history they are running toward the more new things and as the world facing fuel crisis, it's about time to develop new engine or new type of engine which can run on alternative fuel's than Petrol, diesel or gas.

So many development of different method of automotive drive has already made though they are no match for IC engine. They are still powerful and speedy than any new type engine's like battery powered engine or solar power engine.

How Ic Engine Works

Quiz about IC engine

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