(Internal Combustion Engine)
We cannot imagine modern life without the car. The automobile has been one of the singular most amazing inventions of the 21st century and almost defines modern times. Inside of most mechanical petroleum based vehicles is the internal combustion engine.
Today we shall have a brief look at the internal combustion engine and it’s basic working principles.
Basically the the internal combustion engine is a cyclic machine that works on the basis of polytropic expansion laws.
Ok so a polytropic process is one in which the gas equations work differently than that stated in boyle’s law because temperatures need to be constant for the famous law to work. (Pressure*Volume= constant at constant temperature)
Here since during expansion of the gases the temperature does not remain constant and hence the law looks like:
The variable x depends upon the gas used.
So as you can see pressure will have to change greatly for the equivalent volume to change and to keep the equation valid. That’s exactly what happens in an internal combustion engine where an small explosion changes the pressure greatly but the limited volume is not much and hence the equivalent change in volume remains small.
First cycle: Suction
As you can see from the diagram the camshaft being slightly oval is rotating about a central point which for a certain time pushes the lever which opens the valve connecting the gasoline tank to the combustion chamber. The engine is so tuned such that when the fuel flows from the gasoline tank to the combustion chamber the bigger rotating structure downwards pulls the piston downwards. Hence the fuel gets trapped in the chamber when the valve closes.
This is the part where things get interesting. With the fuel trapped inside the chamber due to valve action the wheel rotates such that it pushes the piston above and compresses the fuel. This fuel now now has to withstand high pressure as the piston has lowered the volume greatly. When it is compressed at the maximum a spark plus in the chamber is ignited which causes a small explosion to increase pressure rapidly and push the piston downwards.[remember the part where i told you that the volume is quite limited but the change in pressure is enormous]
Third cycle: Expansion
Here work is obtained from the engine as it causes the rotation in the rotating part attached to the piston to increase. The expansion is the part where the actual energy is obtained from the engine. The wheel continues to rotate by inertia. This is why sometime you need to move the car a bit before getting it to work. It is because the first two parts of the cycle need energy to function and it’s the third cycle which actually provides work.
Fourth cycle: Exhaust
Now the second camshaft is made to rotate at such a speed that by the end of the third cycle the exhaust valve opens up and the fumes that remain after the explosion is forced out by the upward movement of the piston.
Now the second cycle starts where the piston is made to move by inertia and hence the cycle continues.
That’s it! That’s how the internal combustion engine works. Now obviously you will not get an exact replica of this engine inside your car. Rather they have as many as four piston moving up and down to form a 4-stroke internal combustion engine. Also they have a variety of cooling mechanisms and noise filters to reduce the noise from the explosion that takes place inside the machine. However this is the absolute basic and all other made upon this model. There are differences between a petrol and a diesel engine but then again they are not much different from this model.
So now the looking up the car engine won’t seem like an engineering job at NASA anymore, would it?!