A man filling the gas tank of a car with an internal combustion engine.
Internal combustion is literally the driving force behind trains, planes and automobiles. It is a method of power generation in which combustion takes place in a controlled chamber or chambers within an engine to generate mechanical energy. Internal combustion engines were developed in the 1800s and are widely regarded as an important mechanical innovation. Many people use or benefit from an internal combustion engine every day, whether it’s taking a bus to work, using a gasoline generator to power a home, or driving to the beach.
In a turbofan jet engine, air is drawn in by the inlet fans, compressed, mixed with the fuel and ignited in a turbine shaft.
There are several ways to use the energy generated by internal combustion. In all cases, the technology involves using an air-fuel mixture to create controlled explosions. Explosions create a large amount of energy that pushes a piston, transforming the force of the explosion into mechanical energy that can be converted into motion, such as the turning of a car’s wheels or the movement of a jet engine’s turbine. The more pistons an engine has, the more energy it can generate.
Most engines follow a two- or four-stroke cycle, which means that the piston inside the cylinder moves through two or four positions in each engine cycle.
Engines that use internal combustion for power have several components, which may vary slightly depending on the nature of the engine and its age. Most engines follow a two- or four-stroke cycle, which means that the piston inside the cylinder moves through two or four positions in each engine cycle. Four-stroke engines tend to be more common; cars, for example, use a four-stroke method, while lawn mowers are commonly two-stroke engines.
One of the problems with internal combustion is that it generates high-temperature, high-pressure exhaust gases that must be vented away from the engine. These vapors usually contain pollutants generated by burning the fuel in the cylinder. Many engines have filtration systems designed to trap pollutants, and the internal combustion design has been refined to increase efficiency and minimize pollutant production. Even with these measures, however, large amounts of pollution are generated annually by boats, planes, cars, trucks, buses and trains.
Before the internal combustion engine, people used external combustion to generate mechanical energy. One of the classic examples of an external combustion engine is a steam engine, like the one used historically to move trains and some types of factory equipment. Although internal combustion is generally preferred today, external combustion engines can still be seen at work in various corners of the world, sometimes as novelties and sometimes as real engines.