History of the internal combustion engine

This is a video montage of the Otto engines running at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion (WMSTR), in Rollag, Minnesota. (2 min 16 s, 320x240, 340kbit/s video)

Various scientists and engineers contributed to the development of internal combustion engines. In 1791, John Barber developed a turbine. In 1794 Thomas Mead patented a gas engine. Also in 1794 Robert Street patented an internal combustion engine, which was also the first to use liquid fuel, and built an engine around that time. In 1798, John Stevens built the first American internal combustion engine. In 1807, Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz built an internal combustion engine ignited by electric spark. In 1823, Samuel Brown patented the first internal combustion engine to be applied industrially.

In 1860, Belgian Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir produced a gas-fired internal combustion engine. In 1864, Nikolaus Otto patented the first atmospheric gas engine. In 1872, American George Brayton invented the first commercial liquid-fuelled internal combustion engine. In 1876, Nikolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, patented the compressed charge, four-cycle engine. In 1879, Karl Benz patented a reliable two-stroke gas engine. In 1892, Rudolf Diesel developed the first compressed charge, compression ignition engine. In 1926, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket. In 1939, the Heinkel He 178 became the world's first jet aircraft.

Prior to 1860

al-Jazari's hydropowered saqiya chain pump device.
Model of the Barsanti-Matteucci engine (1853) in the Osservatorio Ximeniano in Florence
Early internal combustion engines were used to power farm equipment similar to these models.



Patent of Otto-Langen engine -1863.
Sir Dugald Clerk's two cycle engine from 1879
This internal combustion engine was an integral aspect of the patent for the first patented automobile, made by Karl Benz on January 29, 1886
Karl Benz


1980 to present

Engine starting

Main article: Starter motor

Early internal combustion engines were started by hand cranking. Various types of starter motor were later developed. These included:

Electric starters are now almost universal for small and medium-sized engines, while pneumatic starters are used for large engines.

Modern vs. historical piston engines

The first piston engines did not have compression, but ran on an air-fuel mixture sucked or blown in during the first part of the intake stroke. The most significant distinction between modern internal combustion engines and the early designs is the use of compression of the fuel charge prior to combustion.

The problem of ignition of fuel was handled in early engines with an open flame and a sliding gate. To obtain a faster engine speed Daimler adopted a Hot Tube ignition which allowed 600 rpm immediately in his 1883 horizontal cylinder engine and very soon after over 900 rpm. Most of the engines of that time could not exceed 200 rpm due to their ignition and induction systems.[31]

The first practical engine, Lenoir's, ran on illuminating gas (coal gas). It wasn't until 1883 that Daimler created an engine that ran on liquid petroleum, a fuel called Ligroin which has a chemical makeup of Hexane-N. The fuel is also known as petroleum naptha.

Otto's first engines were push engines which produced a push through the entire stroke (like a Diesel). Daimler's engines produced a rapid pulse, more suitable for mobile engine use.

See also


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  17. DE patent 67207 Rudolf Diesel: "Arbeitsverfahren und Ausführungsart für Verbrennungskraftmaschinen" pg 4.
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  19. NNDB Mapper:"Wilhelm Maybach"
  20. The history behind the Mercedes-Benz brand and the three-pointed star. eMercedesBenz.com. April 17, 2008.
  21. http://www.deutsches-museum.de/en/collections/machines/power-engines/gas-turbines/holzwarth-gas-turbine-1908/
  22. http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930091225_1993091225.pdf
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  31. http://www.supercars.net/forum/threads/1883-high-speed-engine-with-hot-tube-ignition.19553/

Further reading

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