History of the Diesel Engine

Rudolph Diesel (1858-1913) is the man credited with the creation of the diesel
engine. Although there is some question as to whether he was truly the first to
create an engine of this type, he is the man who’s name is stamped on every
engine of it’s kind.

In the latter part of the 1800’s, Rudolph Diesel was a graduate of Munich
Polytechnic in Germany. He had a passion for energy efficiency, understanding
how energy is gained and lost. During his time, the vast bulk of engines were
operated by steam power. Steam power wasn’t cheap and needed large engines to
create small amounts of power. The typical steam powered engine produced only 7
to 10 Percent energy output based off of the fuel consumption the engine

Others had experimented and toyed with the idea of a type of engine that ran off
of combustible materials, and in several of those engine types; the combustion
took place inside of the cylinder. This type of engine would later be referred
to as the Internal Combustion Engine, today’s gasoline and diesel engines
operate based on this technology.

Another type of engine was being developed and experimented on at this time
knows as the “otto cycle” type of engine. This technology would be developed
into today’s Petrol “Gasoline” based engines. Unlike the Petrol engines, which
ran off of processed petroleum; and whose petroleum was ignited by a “spark
plug”; the Diesel engine ran off of Pressurized Bio Fuels.

Yes, Ladies and Gentleman, Bio Fuels have been around for over a hundred years.
One of Rudolph Diesel’s first engines ran off of Peanut Oil, no Petroluem
involved. The idea Diesel came up with was a pressurized environment, where the
Peanut Oil or other Naturally occuring oils were ignited by pressurized air.
When Air is pressurized and greatly compressed, it becomes hot.

Every oil has what is known as a “Flash Point”. The flash point is the
temperature where the oil explodes. His idea was to pressure air until the point
where the heat was hot enough to force the oil to explode, thus creating the
combustion necessary to power the engine. When the air was pressurized enough,
the oil was “injected” into the pressurized cylinders which causes explosions to

Diesel applied for a patent on his technology in 1892, and by 1897 he had the
first working model of his engine. This engine operated at 75 percent energy
efficiency, around 10 times the efficiency of steam engines of the day.

In 1898, Diesel entered his invention in the Paris France exhibition Fair. He
wowed over the audience with not only the energy efficiency, but the fact it ran
off of Peanut oil. While others were relying on petroleum energy from large
corporations, his design ran off of vegetables grown by local farmers.

Although his engines were initially too large and heavy for vehicles to utilize,
they were the perfect option for Ship yards, Naval Vessels, Coal Mines, Water
Processing plants and Trains.

Diesel Engines have evolved greatly since then. In 1927, Robert Bosch created a
diesel injection pump. This injection pump allowed for the size of diesel
engines to be reduced; and along with the enhancement made by Clessie Cummins,
the engines could now be placed inside automobiles.

Even though Bio Fuel was the original combustible used, Petroleum became more
acceptable during the 1920’s and 30’s. The large oil companies built
infrastructure to support petroleum based diesel fuel along with gasoline for
gasoline engines, and the small farmers could not compete without help. As the
cost of petroleum based Diesel fuel continues to rise, a reversion back to
biofuels has begun in recent years.

Many of today’s industrial applications are still powered by, or at least backed
up by diesel engines. Semi trucks and even Nuclear power plants depend on Diesel
power to ensure continous, dependable operation.