The Internal Combustion Revolution – Part 1 The Otto Cycle Engine

The reciprocating piston engine has been the basis for modern automotive power for a hundred or so years now and the majority of the engines used during this time frame have had the same basic design. Not until recent years has the automotive world strayed from the traditional Otto engine design to begin looking at an alternative. The advent of the hybrid drive train, while still being based around the Otto engine has, in recent years,  opened the minds of many  to alternative designs.

In the next few posts I intend to review the Otto design, and introduce some promising alternatives that seem to be gaining some traction as they attempt to enter the market.

But since it has been the standard for the past years, let’ start with the Otto design.

Nikolaus Otto

Nikolaus Otto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The four stroke engine as we know it today was developed first by German Engineer  Nikolaus August Otto in 1876 in Cologne, Germany. It is the basis for the vast majority of the engines used in automobiles and power machinery today. It is based upon a design that uses 4 distinct action or “strokes” to achieve combustion and create power. The strokes are identified as 1-Intake, 2-Compression, 3-Combustion, and 4-Exhaust. The following illustration demonstrates the design.

Four-stroke cycle (or Otto cycle) 1. Intake 2....

Four-stroke cycle (or Otto cycle) 1. Intake 2. Compression 3. Power 4. Exhaust (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This design is the basis for the vast majority of engines in use on land and sea today. The variations of adding turbo charger, supplemental electric motors (as in the case of a hybrid drive train), different fuels (like diesel fuel, compressed natural gas – CNG, and liquid propane) and various configurations of multiple cylinders, all are based essentially on this one singular design.

For more reading on the design and it’s creator, follow the links by clicking on the highlighted and underlined phrases in the post above.


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