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Sunday, 4 January 2015


The first commercially successful true engine, in that it could generate power and transmit it to a machine, was the atmospheric engine, invented by Thomas Newcomen around 1712.

In 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion. Watt's ten-horsepower engines enabled a wide range of manufacturing machinery to be powered.

On Christmas Eve 1801 the British inventor Richard Trevithick tested a steam car, known as the Puffing Devil, which successfully climbed the Camborne Hill in Cornwall with six passengers on board. Trevithick became the first person to power a piston using high-pressure steam – and in doing so he transformed the world.

Nicéphore Niépce was awarded a patent by Napoleon on July 20, 1807 for the Pyréolophore, the world's first internal combustion engine, after it successfully powered a boat upstream on the river Saône in France. He conceived, created, and developed the engine with his older brother Claude.

Diagram of the first internal combustion engine, the Pyréolophore, of 1806 drawn by the Niépce brothers

On April 1, 1826 American Samuel Morey received a patent for a compressionless "Gas or Vapor Engine.” It was pretty much the kind of engine we still use in cars and trucks (see below), but not as complicated and needing less maintenance than those of today.

The first working internal combustion engine was built by the Belgian inventor Étienne Lenoir in 1859. A converted steam engine, it boasted just one horsepower and was woefully inefficient, but spawned the billions of engines that have been built since.

Inspired by the huge internal combustion engine invented by George Brayton, which was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, New York inventor George B. Selden began working on a smaller lighter version. He succeeded by 1878, some eight years before the public introduction of the Benz Patent Motorwagen in Europe, in producing a one-cylinder, 400-pound version. Selden filed for a patent on May 8, 1879. His application included not only the engine but its use in a four wheeled car. Selden then filed a series of amendments to his application which stretched out the legal process resulting in a delay of 16 years before the patent was granted on November 5, 1895.

In 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimler and his lifelong business partner Wilhelm Maybach designed a precursor of the modern petrol (gasoline) engine which they subsequently fitted to a two-wheeler, the first internal combustion motorcycle and, in the next year, to a stagecoach, and a boat.

Daimler baptized it the Grandfather Clock engine (Standuhr) because of its resemblance to an old pendulum clock.

In 1889, Félix Millet begun development of the first vehicle to be powered by a rotary engine in transportation history.

Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his diesel engine in the 1900 Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) using peanut oil fuel.

The first Ford cars had Dodge engines.

The Titanic had 159 coalburning furnaces in its engine room, heating 29 boilers. The steam they generated powered the ship’s three engines.

British aeronautical engineer Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling OBE PhD MSc CEng (March 8, 1909 – November 18, 1990) received the thanks of thousands of RAF pilots during World War II when she invented a diaphragm which allowed fuel to get to an aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Merlin engine regardless of the plane’s violent movements, ensuring the engine wouldn’t stall.

The Rolls-Royce Merlin engine originally came with a direct carburettor, prone to cut-out due to fuel flooding in negative G.

The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine using an eccentric rotary design to convert pressure into rotating motion. Invented by German engineer Felix Wankel, he began development in the early 1950s at NSU research and development department in Neckarsulm, Germany. The first working prototype, DKM 54, produced 21 horsepower and ran on February 1, 1957, at the NSU.

The first DKM Wankel engine. Ralf Pfeifer at German Wikipedia 

A rocket engine has to supply its own oxygen so it can burn fuel in outer space.

One single Boeing 777 jet engine delivers twice the horsepower of all the Titanic's steam engines combined.

The weird little "spirals" on jet engine turbine tips are so the ground crews can tell if an engine is spinning or not.

Sources The Independent

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