An internal combustion engine (ICE) is a heat engine where the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit. In an internal combustion engine the expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine. The force is applied typically to pistons, turbine blades, or a nozzle. This force moves the component over a distance, transforming chemical energy into useful mechanical energy. The first commercially successful internal combustion engine was created by Étienne Lenoir around 1859 and the first modern internal combustion engine was created in 1864 by Siegfried Marcus.
The term internal combustion engine usually refers to an engine in which combustion is intermittent, such as the more familiar four-stroke and two-stroke piston engines, along with variants, such as the six-stroke piston engine and the Wankel rotary engine. A second class of internal combustion engines use continuous combustion: gas turbines, jet engines and most rocket engines, each of which are internal combustion engines on the same principle as previously described. Firearms are also a form of internal combustion engine.
Internal combustion engines are quite different from external combustion engines, such as steam or Stirling engines, in which the energy is delivered to a working fluid not consisting of, mixed with, or contaminated by combustion products. Working fluids can be air, hot water, pressurized water or even liquid sodium, heated in a boiler. ICEs are usually powered by energy-dense fuels such as gasoline or diesel, liquids derived from fossil fuels. While there are many stationary applications, most ICEs are used in mobile applications and are the dominant power supply for vehicles such as cars, aircraft, and boats.
Typically an ICE is fed with fossil fuels like natural gas or petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel or fuel oil. There’s a growing usage of renewable fuels like biodiesel for compression ignition engines and bio-ethanol or methanol for spark ignition engines. Hydrogen is sometimes used, and can be made from either fossil fuels or renewable energy. Figure 5 shows a schematic for a four-stroke gasoline engine.
The top dead center (4-stroke engines
TDC) of a piston is the position where it is nearest to the valves; bottom dead center (BDC) is the opposite position where it is furthest from them. A stroke is the movement of a piston from TDC to BDC or vice versa together with the associated process. While an engine is in operation the crankshaft rotates continuously at a nearly constant speed. In a 4-stroke ICE each piston experiences 2 strokes per crankshaft revolution in the following order. Starting the description at TDC, these are:
1. Intake, induction or suction:
The intake valves are open as a result of the cam lobe pressing down on the valve stem. The piston moves downward increasing the volume of the combustion chamber and allowing air to enter in the case of a CI engine or an air fuel mix in the case of SI engines that do not use direct injection. The air or air-fuel mixture is called the charge in any case.
In this stroke, both valves are closed and the piston moves upward reducing the combustion chamber volume which reaches its minimum when the piston is at TDC. The piston performs work on the charge as it is being compressed; as a result its pressure, temperature and density increase; an approximation to this behavior is provided by the ideal gas law. Just before the piston reaches TDC, ignition begins. In the case of a SI engine, the spark plug receives a high voltage pulse that generates the spark which gives it its name and ignites the charge. In the case of a CI engine the fuel injector quickly injects fuel into the combustion chamber as a spray; the fuel ignites due to the high temperature.
3. Power or working stroke:
The pressure of the combustion gases pushes the piston downward, generating more work than it required to compress the charge. Complementary to the compression stroke, the combustion gases expand and as a result their temperature, pressure and density decreases. When the piston is near to BDC the exhaust valve opens. The combustion gases expand irreversibly due to the leftover pressure—in excess of back pressure, the gauge pressure on the exhaust port— ; this is called the blowdown
The exhaust valve remains open while the piston moves upward expelling the combustion gases. For naturally aspirated engines a small part of the combustion gases may remain in the cylinder during normal operation because the piston does not close the combustion chamber completely; these gases dissolve in the next charge. At the end of this stroke, the exhaust valve closes, the intake valve opens, and the sequence repeats in the next cycle. The intake valve may open before the exhaust valve closes to allow better scavenging.
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