An internal-combustion engine is a heat engine that burns fuel and air
inside a combustion chamber located within the engine proper. Simply stated, a
heat engine is an engine that converts heat energy to mechanical energy. The
internal- combustion engine should be distinguished from the external-
combustion engine, for example, the steam engine and the Stirling engine, which
burns fuel outside the prime mover, that is, the device that actually produces
mechanical motion. Both basic types produce hot, expanding gases, which may then
be employed to move pistons, turn turbine rotors, or cause locomotion through
the reaction principle as they escape through the nozzle.
Most people are familiar with the internal-combustion reciprocating engine,
which is used to power most automobiles, boats, lawn mowers, and home generators.
Based on the means of ignition, two types of internal-combustion reciprocating
engines can be distinguished: spark-ignition engines and compression-ignition
engines. In the former, a spark ignites a combustible mixture of air and fuel;
in the latter, high compression raises the temperature of the air in the chamber
and ignites the injected fuel without a spark. The diesel engine is a
compression-ignition engine. This article emphasizes the spark-ignition engine.
The invention and early development of internal-combustion engines are
usually credited to three Germans. Nikolaus Otto patented and built (1876) the
first such engine; Karl Benz built the first automobile to be powered by such an
engine (1885); and Gottlieb Daimler designed the first high-speed internal-
combustion engine (1885) and carburetor. Rudolf Diesel invented a successful
compression-ignition engine (the diesel engine) in 1892.
The operation of the internal-combustion reciprocating engine employs
either a four-stroke cycle or a two-stroke cycle. A stroke is one continuous
movement of the piston within the cylinder.
In the four-stroke cycle, also known as the Otto cycle, the downward
movement of a piston located within a cylinder creates a partial vacuum. Valves
located inside the combustion chamber are controlled by the motion of a camshaft
connected to the crankshaft. The four strokes are called, in order of sequence,
intake, compression, power, and exhaust. On the first stroke the intake valve is
... middle of paper ...
... energy within the
muffler before the exhaust gases are permitted to escape.
The power capacity of an engine depends on a number of characteristics,
including the volume of the combustion chamber. The volume can be increased by
increasing the size of the piston and cylinder and by increasing the number of
cylinders. The cylinder configuration, or arrangement of cylinders, can be
straight, or in-line (one cylinder located behind the other); radial (cylinders
located around a circle); in a V (cylinders located in a V configuration); or
opposed (cylinders located opposite each other). Another type of internal-
combustion engine, the Wankel engine, has no cylinders; instead, it has a rotor
that moves through a combustion chamber.
An internal-combustion engine must also have some kind of transmission
system to control and direct the mechanical energy where it is needed; for
example, in an automobile the energy must be directed to the driving wheels.
Since these engines are not able to start under a load, a transmission system
must be used to "disengage" the engine from the load during starting and then to
apply the load when the engine reaches its operating speed.
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