History of the internal combustion engine
Although various forms of internal combustion engines were developed before the 19th century, their use was hindered until the commercial drilling and production of petroleum began in the mid-1850s. By the late 19th century, engineering advances led to their widespread adoption in a variety of applications.
Timeline of development
Prior to 1860
- 3rd century: The earliest evidence of a crank and connecting rod mechanism dates to the 3rd century AD Hierapolis sawmill in Asia Minor (Turkey) as part of the Roman Empire.
- 5th century: Roman engineers documented several crankshaft-connecting rod machines used for their sawmills.
- In 1206, al-Jazari invented an early crankshaft, which he incorporated with a crank-connecting rod mechanism in his twin-cylinder pump. Like the modern crankshaft, Al-Jazari's mechanism consisted of a wheel setting several crank pins into motion, with the wheel's motion being circular and the pins moving back-and-forth in a straight line. The crankshaft described by al-Jazari transforms continuous rotary motion into a linear reciprocating motion, and is central to modern machinery such as the steam engine, internal combustion engine and automatic controls.
- 9th century: The crank appears in the mid-9th century in several of the hydraulic devices described by the Banū Mūsā brothers in their Book of Ingenious Devices.
- 17th century: Christiaan Huygens designs gunpowder to drive water pumps, to supply 3000 cubic meters of water/day for the Versailles palace gardens, essentially creating the first idea of a rudimentary internal combustion piston engine.
- 1780s: Alessandro Volta built a toy electric pistol in which an electric spark exploded a mixture of air and hydrogen, firing a cork from the end of the gun.
- 1791: John Barber receives British patent #1833 for A Method for Rising Inflammable Air for the Purposes of Producing Motion and Facilitating Metallurgical Operations. In it he describes a turbine.
- 1794: Robert Street built a compressionless engine whose principle of operation would dominate for nearly a century.
- 1807: Nicéphore Niépce installed his 'moss, coal-dust and resin' fueled Pyréolophore internal combustion engine in a boat and powered up the river Saône in France. A patent was subsequently granted by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on 20 July 1807.
- 1807: Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz built an internal combustion engine powered by a hydrogen and oxygen mixture, and ignited by electric spark. (See 1780s: Alessandro Volta above.) 
- 1823: Samuel Brown patented the first internal combustion engine to be applied industrially. It was compressionless and based on what Hardenberg calls the "Leonardo cycle", which, as the name implies, was already out of date at that time.
- 1826 April 1: American Samuel Morey received a patent for a compressionless "Gas or Vapor Engine."
- 1833: Lemuel Wellman Wright, UK patent 6525, table-type gas engine. Double acting gas engine, first record of water jacketed cylinder.
- 1838: A patent was granted to William Barnett (English). According to Dugald Clerk, this was the first recorded use of in-cylinder compression.
- 1853-57: Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci invented and patented an engine using the free-piston principle that was possibly the first 4-cycle engine.
- 1856: in Florence at Fonderia del Pignone (now Nuovo Pignone, later a subsidiary of General Electric), Pietro Benini realized a working prototype of the Italian engine supplying 5 HP. In subsequent years he developed more powerful engines—with one or two pistons—which served as steady power sources, replacing steam engines.
- 1857: Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci describe the principles of the free piston engine where the vacuum after the explosion allows atmospheric pressure to deliver the power stroke (British patent No 1625). Otto and Langen were the first to make a marketable engine based on this concept 10 years later.
- 1860: Belgian Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir (1822–1900) produced a gas-fired internal combustion engine similar in appearance to a horizontal double-acting steam engine, with cylinders, pistons, connecting rods, and flywheel in which the gas essentially took the place of the steam. This was the first internal combustion engine to be produced in numbers.
- 1861 The earliest confirmed patent of the 4-cycle engine, by Alphonse Beau de Rochas. A year earlier, Christian Reithmann made an engine which may have been the same, but it's unknown since his patent wasn't clear on this point.
- 1862: German inventor Nikolaus Otto was the first to build and sell the engine. He designed an indirect-acting free-piston compressionless engine whose greater efficiency won the support of Eugen Langen and then most of the market, which at that time was mostly for small stationary engines fueled by lighting gas.
- 1865: Pierre Hugon started production of the Hugon engine, similar to the Lenoir engine, but with better economy, and more reliable flame ignition.
- 1867: Otto and Langen introduced their free piston engine at the Paris Exhibition. It had less than half the gas consumption of the Lenoir or Hugon engines.
- 1870: In Vienna, Siegfried Marcus put the first mobile gasoline engine on a handcart.
- 1872: In America George Brayton invented Brayton's Ready Motor and went into commercial production, this used constant pressure combustion, and was the first commercial liquid fuelled internal combustion engine.
- 1876: Nikolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, started the genesis of the four-cycle engine. The German courts, however, did not hold his patent to cover all in-cylinder compression engines or even the four-stroke cycle, and after this decision, in-cylinder compression became universal.
- 1878: Dugald Clerk designed the first two-stroke engine with in-cylinder compression. He patented it in England in 1881.
- 1879: Karl Benz, working independently, was granted a patent for his internal combustion engine, a reliable two-stroke gas engine, based on the same technology as De Rochas's design of the four-stroke engine. Later, Benz designed and built his own four-stroke engine that was used in his automobiles, which were developed in 1885, patented in 1886, and became the first automobiles in production.
- 1882: James Atkinson invented the Atkinson cycle engine. Atkinson’s engine had one power phase per revolution together with different intake and expansion volumes, potentially making it more efficient than the Otto cycle, but certainly avoiding Otto's patent.
- 1884: British engineer Edward Butler constructed the first petrol (gasoline) internal combustion engine. Butler invented the spark plug, ignition magneto, coil ignition and spray jet carburetor, and was the first to use the word petrol.
- 1885: German engineer Gottlieb Daimler received a German patent for a supercharger
- 1889: Félix Millet begins development of the first vehicle to be powered by a rotary engine in transportation history.
- 1891: Herbert Akroyd Stuart built his oil engine, leasing rights to Hornsby of England to build them. They built the first cold-start compression-ignition engines. In 1892, they installed the first ones in a water pumping station. In the same year, an experimental higher-pressure version produced self-sustaining ignition through compression alone.
- 1892: Rudolf Diesel developed his Carnot heat engine type motor .
- 1887: Gustaf de Laval introduces the de Laval nozzle
- 1893 February 23: Rudolf Diesel received a patent for his compression ignition (diesel) engine.
- 1896: Karl Benz invented the boxer engine, also known as the horizontally opposed engine, or the flat engine, in which the corresponding pistons reach top dead center at the same time, thus balancing each other in momentum.
- 1898: Fay Oliver Farwell designs the prototype of the line of Adams-Farwell automobiles, all to be powered with three or five cylinder rotary internal combustion engines.
- 1900: Rudolf Diesel demonstrated the diesel engine in the 1900 Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) using peanut oil fuel (see biodiesel).
- 1900: Wilhelm Maybach designed an engine built at Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft—following the specifications of Emil Jellinek—who required the engine to be named Daimler-Mercedes after his daughter. In 1902 automobiles with that engine were put into production by DMG.
- 1903 - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky begins a series of theoretical papers discussing the use of rocketry to reach outer space. A major point in his work is liquid fueled rockets.
- 1903: Ægidius Elling builds a gas turbine using a centrifugal compressor which runs under its own power. By most definitions, this is the first working gas turbine.
- 1905 Alfred Buchi patents the turbocharger and starts producing the first examples.
- 1903-1906: The team of Armengaud and Lemale in France build a complete gas turbine engine. It uses three separate compressors driven by a single turbine. Limits on the turbine temperatures allow for only a 3:1 compression ratio, and the turbine is not based on a Parsons-like "fan", but a Pelton wheel-like arrangement. The engine is so inefficient, at about 3% thermal efficiency, that the work is abandoned.
- 1908: New Zealand inventor Ernest Godward started a motorcycle business in Invercargill and fitted the imported bikes with his own invention – a petrol economiser. His economisers worked as well in cars as they did in motorcycles.
- 1908: Hans Holzwarth starts work on extensive research on an "explosive cycle" gas turbine, based on the Otto cycle. This design burns fuel at a constant volume and is somewhat more efficient. By 1927, when the work ended, he has reached about 13% thermal efficiency.
- 1908: René Lorin patents a design for the ramjet engine.
- 1916: Auguste Rateau suggests using exhaust-powered compressors to improve high-altitude performance, the first example of the turbocharger.
- 1920: William Joseph Stern reports to the Royal Air Force that there is no future for the turbine engine in aircraft. He bases his argument on the extremely low efficiency of existing compressor designs. Due to Stern's eminence, his paper is so convincing there is little official interest in gas turbine engines anywhere, although this does not last long.
- 1921: Maxime Guillaume patents the axial-flow gas turbine engine. It uses multiple stages in both the compressor and turbine, combined with a single very large combustion chamber.
- 1923: Edgar Buckingham at the United States National Bureau of Standards publishes a report on jets, coming to the same conclusion as W.J. Stern, that the turbine engine is not efficient enough. In particular he notes that a jet would use five times as much fuel as a piston engine.
- 1925: The Hesselman engine is introduced by Swedish engineer Jonas Hesselman represented the first use of direct gasoline injection on a spark-ignition engine.
- 1925: Wilhelm Pape patents a constant-volume engine design.
- 1926: Alan Arnold Griffith publishes his groundbreaking paper Aerodynamic Theory of Turbine Design, changing the low confidence in jet engines. In it he demonstrates that existing compressors are "flying stalled", and that major improvements can be made by redesigning the blades from a flat profile into an airfoil, going on to mathematically demonstrate that a practical engine is definitely possible and showing how to build a turboprop.
- 1926 - Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket
- 1927: Aurel Stodola publishes his "Steam and Gas Turbines" - basic reference for jet propulsion engineers in the USA.
- 1927: A testbed single-shaft turbo-compressor based on Griffith's blade design is tested at the Royal Aircraft Establishment.
- 1929: Frank Whittle's thesis on jet engines is published
- 1930: Schmidt patents a pulse-jet engine in Germany.
- 1936: French engineer René Leduc, having independently re-discovered René Lorin's design, successfully demonstrates the world's first operating ramjet.
- 1937: The first successful run of Sir Frank Whittle's gas turbine for jet propulsion.
- March, 1937: The Heinkel HeS 1 experimental hydrogen fueled centrifugal jet engine is tested at Hirth.
- 27 August 1939: The Heinkel He 178 V1 pioneer turbojet aircraft prototype makes its first flight, powered by an He S 3 engine.
- 15 May 1941: The Gloster E.28/39 becomes the first British jet-engined aircraft to fly, using a Power Jets W.1 turbojet designed by Frank Whittle and others.
- 1942: Max Bentele discovers in Germany that turbine blades can break if vibrations are in its resonance range, a phenomenon already known in the USA from the steam turbine experience.
- July 18, 1942: The Messerschmitt Me 262 first jet engine flight
- 1946: Sam Baylin develops the Baylin Engine a three cycle internal combustion engine with rotary pistons. A crude but complex example of the future Wankel engine.
- In the early 1950s engineers for The Texas Company—i.e. now Chevron—developed a four stroke engine with a fuel injector that employed what was called the Texco Combustion Process, which unlike normal four stroke gasoline engines which used a separate valve for the intake of the air-gasoline mixture, with the T.C.P. engine the intake valve with a built in special shroud delivers the air to the cylinder in a tornado type fashion at then the fuel is injected and ignited by a spark plug. The inventors claimed their engine could burn on almost any petroleum based fuel of any octane and even some alcohol based fuels—e.g. kerosine, benzine, motor oil, tractor oil, etc.—without the pre-combustion knock and the complete burning of the fuel inject into the cylinder. While development was well advanced by 1950, there is no records of the T.C.P. engine being used commercially.
- 1950s development begins by US firms of the Free-piston engine concept which is a crankless internal combustion engine.
- 1954: Felix Wankel's first working prototype DKM 54 of the Wankel engine
1980 to present
- 1986 Benz Gmbh files for patent protection for a form of Scotch yoke engine and begins development of same. Development subsequently abandoned.
- 1999: Brothers, Michael and Peter Raffaele file patent application seeking protection for new form of Scotch yoke engine known as the Slider Engine.
- 2004 Hyper-X first scramjet to maintain altitude
- 2004 Toyota Motor Corp files for patent protection for new form of Scotch yoke engine.
Early internal combustion engines were started by hand cranking. Various types of starter motor were later developed. These included:
- An auxiliary petrol engine for starting a larger petrol or diesel engine. The Hucks starter is an example
- Cartridge starters, such as the Coffman engine starter, which used a device like a blank shotgun cartridge. These were popular for aircraft engines
- Pneumatic starters
- Hydraulic starters
- Electric starters
Electric starters are now almost universal for small and medium-sized engines, while compressed-air starting is 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 and, in particular, in-cylinder compression.
- Bertha Benz Memorial Route, commemorating the world's first long distance journey with an automobile propelled by an internal combustion engine in 1888.
- Harry Ricardo
- Timeline of heat engine technology
- Timeline of motor vehicle brands
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- Electric Pistol
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