History of the Diesel Engine

The diesel engine has a long history that is intertwined closely with economic and other issues of the time. The diesel engine was created by Rudolph Diesel. He developed the idea of the diesel engine and thought up the principle of its operation. He thought up the concept of the engine that compresses air to the degree where there is a resulting rise in temperature.

The concept followed the principle where when the air enters the chamber with the piston, the air ignited due to the high temperatures. This causes the piston to move down and eliminates the need for an ignition source. When Diesel designed his engine, it was in a time when there was a demand for a more fuel efficient engine as the steam engine was no where close to efficient.

It was on February 27th, 1892 that Diesel filed a patent in the patent office in Germany for his method and design for the combustion engine. He sourced contracts from companies that manufactured machines and began his experimentation stage. During this stage he constructed working models of his design in an attempt to construct the most efficient engine of that time.

It was in the year 1893 that he was successful in putting out the first model that was able to run with its own power and with an efficiency of approximately 26%. This was more than double the efficiency of the steam engines of that time and was a great stride for the efficient engine and a great start to the engines of today.

It was in February of 1897 that he accomplished a great achievement and produced a diesel engine that ran at 75% efficiency. This was the first one of its kind that was deemed suitable for practical use and was demonstrated at the Exhibition fair in France in the year 1898. This engine in particular was run on peanut oil and in Diesel's vision was great for the small business owners as well as farmers as it used an economical fuel source that was a biomass fuel. It was his use of a biomass fuel that continued until the 1920's and is starting again today.

In the past the diesel engine was not considered to be small enough for anything but stationary use as they were very heavy and cumbersome. Common uses were on ships and industrial uses. Rudolph Diesel disappeared in 1913 and it was not certain whether he died a natural or unnatural death. Many thought his death was related to the politics of the time and the vast knowledge he possessed and was willing to share with enemies of the German government of the time. Another theory in Diesel's death is that he died by suicide, possibly due to being deeply in debt.

Diesel Engine built in Feburary of 1897.
Source: Helmut Hütten, "Motoren", Motorbuchverlag Stuttgart, S. 19

A third theory in the death of Diesel is based around the hope that his engine would provide power using alternative/cheaper/greener fuels. This revolutionary thinking may have scared some oil investors. Rudolf Diesel said, "The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time." After his death, the Diesel engine was engineered to run only on petroleum based products and his great ideas of a clean burning engine died with him.

In the 1920's the engine was redesigned into a smaller and more compact version. This allowed it to be used for a wider range of applications and even in the automobile industry. The development of the diesel engine continued and it was made better and better by other inventors such as Clessie L. Cummins who worked out many of the bugs of the diesel engine such as those concerning size and weight as well as the instability of the fuel system.

Rudolf Diesel

Although Diesel was born in Paris, his parents were German. His father was a leather craftsman, and his mother a governess and language tutor. Rudolf was a good student in primary school and was admitted at the age of 12 to the Ecole Primaire Superieure, then regarded as the best in Paris. At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, however, he and his parents were considered enemy aliens, and were deported to neutral asylum in London. A cousin helped him to return to his father's home town, Augsburg, where he entered the Royal County Trade School. From there he won a scholarship to the Technische Hochschule of Munich, where he was an outstanding student. He became a protege of Carl von Linde, the pioneer of refrigeration.

After graduation, he was employed for two years as a machinist and designer in Winterthur, Switzerland. After this, he returned to Paris, where he was employed as a refrigeration engineer at Linde Refrigeration Enterprises. In Paris he became a connoisseur of the fine arts and an internationalist. He married in 1883, and had three children. He set up his first shop-laboratory in 1885 in Paris, and began full-time work on his engine. This continued when he moved to Berlin, working again for Linde Enterprises.

Rudolf Diesel


John Stafford - webmaster of www.diesel-generator-central.com
Wikipedia - www.wikipedia.org


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