Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The internal combustion engine uses the principle that an explosive mixture of air and fuel contained in a space will expand when ignited. Three basic types of engines developed from that principle: atmospheric, which used the pressure of the atmosphere to move a piston after an explosion created a vacuum; noncompression, which exploded a mixture of air and fuel in a chamber; and precompression, which compressed a mixture of air and fuel before ignition. Designers used either a reciprocal or turbine action as the basic motion in the devices.
As early as the seventeenth century, gunpowder-fueled cannons demonstrated the power generated by internal combustion. This knowledge ledChristiaan Huygens to produce the first such gunpowder-powered device in 1673; it had little practical success. Although several people experimented with internal combustion designs for more than a century and a half after Huygens’s pioneering efforts, no successful efforts emerged until William Murdoch produced a reliable source of coal gas as fuel for these engines in 1790. From that date until the 1850’s, several inventors experimented with a variety of devices used to produce motive or stationary power. None was practical, and none saw commercial success, yet these efforts were important in the development of internal combustion power.
Jean-Joseph-Étienne Lenoirproduced the first commercially viable internal combustion engine in 1859; it used...
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Applications (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The internal combustion engine also powered airplanes, marine vehicles, trucks, and factory machines. By the early 1900’s, Rudolf Diesel’s self-ignition engines, relying on fuel oil, saw use in heavy-duty applications. Frank Whittle’s development work in Britain on a gasoline-powered turbine engine in the 1920’s and 1930’s led to jet aircraft toward the end of World War II. These engines became widespread in aviation in the postwar era and added to the demand for petroleum fuels. These diverse uses of the internal combustion engine and its dependability made this design a favorite in the marketplace for more than one century despite its inefficiency and the fact that it polluted the environment.
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Resource Use (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The demand and consumption of petroleum as a fuel grew with the increased uses of the internal combustion engine in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. For example, in the United States gasoline use increased more than tenfold from 1910 to 1950 as Americans embraced the car culture, and it tripled between 1950 and 2000, an era of suburban growth and multiple-car families. Gasoline consumption far outpaced domestic petroleum production, and the United States tripled the amount of oil it imported in the short time period from 1967 to 1973. As of 2010, the United States continued to import more than 60 percent of the petroleum it consumed each year. Although the internal combustion engine was the preeminent mobile power source of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, its use of nonrenewable energy resources and the pollutants it released generated a growing interest in finding alternative sources of reliable mobile power.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Black, Edwin. Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006.
Cummins, C. Lyle, Jr. Internal Fire. Rev. ed. Warrendale, Pa.: Society of Automotive Engineers, 1989.
Josephson, Paul R. Motorized Obsessions: Life, Liberty, and the Small-Bore Engine. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Lay, M. G. Ways of the World: A History of the World’s Roads and of the Vehicles That Used Them. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
Pulkrabek, Willard W. Engineering Fundamentals of the Internal Combustion Engine. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004.
Sher, Eran, ed. Handbook of Air Pollution from Internal Combustion Engines: Pollutant Formation and Control. Boston: Academic Press, 1998.
Stone, Richard. Introduction to Internal Combustion Engines. 3d ed. Warrendale, Pa.: Society of Automotive Engineers, 1999.
How Stuff Works. How Car Engines Work: Internal Combustion. http://auto.howstuffworks.com/engine1.htm
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Internal-Combustion Engine (Encyclopedia of Science)
The invention and development of the internal-combustion engine in the nineteenth century has had a profound impact on human life. The internal-combustion engine offers a relatively small, lightweight source for the amount of power it produces. Harnessing that power has made possible practical machines ranging from the smallest model airplane to the largest truck. Lawnmowers, chainsaws, and electric generators also may use internal-combustion engines. An important device based on the internal-combustion engine is the automobile.
In all internal-combustion engines, however, the basic principles remain the same. Fuel is ignited in a cylinder, or chamber. Inside the sealed, hollow cylinder is a piston (a solid cylinder) that is free to move up and down and is attached at the bottom to a crankshaft. The energy created by the combustion, or burning, of the fuel pushes down on the piston. The movement of the piston turns the crankshaft, which then transfers that movement through various gears to the desired destination, such as the drive wheels in an automobile.
The most common internal-combustion engines are the piston-type gasoline engines used in most automobiles. In an engine, the cylinder is housed inside an engine block strong enough to contain the explosions of fuel. Inside the cylinder is a piston that fits the cylinder...
(The entire section is 940 words.)