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Great inventions – The first internal combustion engine

the first engine

Our contemporary automobile construction industry wouldn’t have existed without the invention of the internal combustion engine. Perhaps few of you know who is responsible for one of the greatest inventions of our modern technological history.

Find out who was the inventor of the internal combustion engine. How it works and what different types of engines people use.

How does the internal combustion engine work?

The standard internal combustion engine produces power by injecting a mixture of air and fuel. Sounds simple, yes? In its combustion chamber and cylinder, the engine is compressing the fuel-air liquid, to be burned up by a spark.

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The concentrated gasses increase, creating high pressure. They apply tension over a piston or a rotor. This component, driven by chemical energy, further transfers it, through movement to mechanical energy.e

engine turbo

Variations and prototypes

The most widespread fuel engine is the four-stroke engine. It is also called four-cycle engine, because of the four cycles the piston makes inside the cylinder to produce the mechanical energy. This type of engine is considered as the first engine with full functionality to prompt movement, without being too heavy.

engine belt

Other variations of the fuel engine have been tested and used through the years- such as the two-stroke engine. The two-stroke engines were lighter and smaller, due to the smaller amount of mechanical parts. Two-cycle engines are still used for motorcycles, scooters and as engines for tools but are not anymore part of the automobile industry.

There are also six-stroke engines, with many variations of the number of the pistons inside. Some of their advantages can be increased fuel efficiency, reduced mechanical complexity, and reduced emissions.

Who was the first?

The “official” inventor of the atmospheric gas engine is considered the German Nikolaus Otto, who patented his two-stroke engine in 1863. However, despite his patent, many scientists contributed to the invention of the modern engine system.


first engine

Before Otto, in 1794 Robert Street created the first internal combustion engine, which used liquid fuel and later in 1807 the Swiss inventor Francois de Rivaz designed an engine lit by an electric spark. Although all of these inventions have drawn the path for the future atmospheric engine, none of these engines were used in automobile construction.

Comparing to this engine this one is a top tech

Few years before Otto made his discovery the Belgian engineer Jean J. Lenoir patented an engine, which used coal gas and air- a steam engine. His engine was a prototype of modern internal combustion engines, but despite the automobiles he built were capable of moving, his engines were cumbersome and inefficient.

Otto continued the work of Lenoir applying his long-term idea of creating a four-stroke engine.

He developed the invention of Lenoir’s gas engine to create new using liquid fuel, but still, it was the two-stroke engine. Only in 1874, Otto managed to build a proper ignition system to put his into stroke engine to work. In the next few years, his success was enormous, more than 30 000 pieces were sold, and soon any earlier discoveries were singing into oblivion.


engine diagram Further development

Meanwhile, the successful engineer Gotlib Daimler, who used to work in Otto’s engine factory decided to go on his way, trying to improve Otto’s brainchild. He was convinced to put the engine in a car. In 1883 he created modified ignition system, which produced 900 cycles in a minute.

For the next years, Daimler constructed the first motorcycle in history and finally managed to build a lightweight engine, suitable for car construction.

While Daimler finally patented his discovery, Carl Benz was with few steps and few months ahead with his automobile on three wheels. Daimler and Benz released their cars on the market pretty much at the same time, just a couple of years later. All of their cars had engines based on Otto’s invention.

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