July 1, 2024

Evolution and History of Internal Combustion Engines

heat engine is a system that converts fuels chemical energy into heat and then heat to usable energy, particularly mechanical energy, which can then be used to do mechanical work. Heat Engines are categorized as External Combustion Engines and Internal Combustion Engines.

External Combustion Engines are those types of heat engines where the fuel is burnt outside the engine or where the fuel combustion occurs outside the engine. It is a heat engine where a working fluid is included internally and heated by combustion in an external source through the engine wall. This fluid then produced motion and usable work by expanding and acting on the mechanism of the engine. Example of External Combustion is thermal power plant.

Internal Combustion Engines includes the combustion of a fuel that takes place within the system. These types of engines take place where the fuel is burnt in the engine or where the fossil fuel combustion occurs. Pistons are mostly used in the internal combustion type of heat engines. These pistons move up and down within the cylinders that are present in the heat engines.  Gasoline engines, diesel engines, gas-turbine engines, and rocket-propulsion systems are some examples of Internal Combustion Engines. The history of IC Engines is very long; in this topic we will cover some important events happened with IC Engines.


1678–1679:The Huygens' engine,a prototype single-cylinder gunpowder engine is built by Dutch inventor Christiaan Huygens.

1780s: An"electric pistol", which used an electric spark to ignite hydrogen gas in an enclosed vessel, is invented by Italian chemist AlessandroVolta. This is possibly the first example of a spark-ignition heat engine.

1791: The principle for a gas turbine engine is described in the patent A Method for Rising Inflammable Air for the Purposes of Producing Motion and Facilitating Metallurgical Operations by British inventor John Barber.

1794: A reciprocating piston engine is built by Robert Street. This engine was fuelled by gas vapours, used the piston's intake stroke to draw in outside air, and the air/fuel mixture was ignited by an external flame. Another gas engine was also patented in 1794 by Thomas Mead.

1801: Theconcept of using compression in a two-stroke gas engine was theorised by French engineer PhilippeLeBon D’Humberstein.

1807: One ofthe first known working internal combustion engines – called the Pyréolophore –is built by French inventors ClaudeNiépce and Nicéphore Niépce. This single prototype engineused a series of controlled dustexplosions and was used to power a boatupstream in the river Saône in France.

1807: Thehydrogen-fuelled DeRivaz engine is built by Swissengineer François Isaac de Rivaz and fitted to a wheeled carriage, possibly creatingthe first known automobile. This prototype engine used spark-ignition (asper the 1780s Alessandro Volta design above).

1823: Theconcept of a gas vacuum engine is patented by British engineer Samuel Brown.One of Brown's engines was used to pump water at a canal in London from 1830 to1836.

1824:The Carnot cycle –a thermodynamic theory for heat engines – is published in a research paper byFrench physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot.

1826: A patentfor the principle of a "gas or vapor engine" is granted to Americaninventor Samuel Morey. Thepatent includes the first known design for a carburetor.

1833: A patentfor a double-acting gas Lemuel Wellman Wright, UK patent no. 6525, table-type gas engine. Double-acting gasengine, first record of water-jacketed cylinder.

1838: A patentfor the principle of a double-acting gas engine is granted to Britishinventor William Barnett. This is the first known design to propose in-cylindercompression and the use of a waterjacket for cooling.

1853–1857:A patent for the principle of the free-piston Barsanti–Matteucci engine is grantedto Italian mathematician EugenioBarsanti and engineer FeliceMatteucci. The design was intended to provide power by the vacuum inthe combustion chamber pulling the piston downwards, following the explosion ofa gas fuel within the combustion chamber.

1860:Belgian-French engineer JeanJoseph Etienne Lenoir invented an atmospheric(non-compression) gas engine, using a layout similar to a horizontal double acting steam engine. The design's patent was titled Moteur à air dilaté par combustion des gaz.Allegedly, in 1860, several of these engines were built and used commerciallyin Paris. By 1867, about 280 units of the Lenoir engine hadbeen built. Friedrich Sass considersthe Lenoir engine to be the first functional internal combustion engine.

1861: Theprinciple for the four-stroke engine isdescribed by French engineer Alphonse Beau de Rochas in the essay titled Nouvelles recherches sur les conditions pratiques de l'utilisation dela chaleur et en général de la force motrice. Avec application au chemin de feret à la navigation. De Rochas applied for a patent, however it wasdeclared invalid two years later.

1862: Aprototype four-stroke engine, created from a modified Lenoir engine, is builtby German engineers Nicolaus Otto and Michael Zons. The enginewas only able to run for a few minutes before it self-destructed. 1864–1875:The first petrol-poweredautomobile – a prototype handcart – is built by German inventor SiegfriedMarcus.

1864: Thefirst commercially successful internal combustion engine – a gas-fuelledatmospheric engine – is produced by German engineers Eugen Langen and Nicolaus Otto. The engine won a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in1867 and was patented in 1868. Fuel consumption of thisengine was less than half that of the Lenoir and Hugon engines.

1865:The Hugon engine – an improved version of theLenoir engine with flame ignition, better fuel economy and water injectioninto the cylinders for cooling – is introduced by French engineer Pierre Hugon.This engine was produced commercially for applications such as printing pressesand patent offices.

1872: Thefirst commercial liquid-fuelled engine, the Brayton's Ready Motor was patented byAmerican engineer George Brayton. This engine used constant pressure combustionand began commercial production in 1876.

1876: Thefirst functional Otto cycle engine– called the Otto Silent Engine –is built by Nicholas Otto, Franz Rings and Herman Schumm at the Germancompany Deutz-AG-Gasmotorenfabrik.The engine compressed the air/fuel mixture before combustion, unlike the otheratmospheric engines of the time.

1876: Ottoapplied for a patent on a stratified charge engine that would use thefour-stroke principle. The patent was granted in 1876 in Elsass–Lothringen, and transformed into aGerman Realm Patent in 1877 (DRP 532, 4 August 1877).

1879: Aprototype two-stroke gasengine is built by German engineer CarlBenz

1881: Thefirst commercially successful two-stroke engine design is patented by Scottish engineer Dugald Clerk. Thisengine is amongst the earliest to use a supercharger.

1885:The Benz Patent-Motorwagen – often considered to be the first automobile –is built. It was powered by a 0.55 kW (0.74 hp) single-cylinderfour-stroke engine.

1885:The Daimler Reitwagen – often considered to be the first motorcycle –is built by German engineer GottliebDaimler. The Reitwagen was powered bythe Grandfather clock engine, a high-speed (600 rpm), single-cylinderengine producing 0.37 kW (0.50 hp).

1888: A rotaryengine (not to be confused with apistonless Wankel engine) is patented by French inventorFélix Millet. This five-cylinder engine was installed in the rear wheel of abicycle for use in the 1894–1895 Milletmotorcycle.

1889: Thefirst V engine isbuilt by German engineer WilhelmMaybach.

1889: Thefirst aluminium engine block is created.

1891:The Hornsby–Akroyd oil engine – often considered a predecessor to the diesel engine– begins production. The engine was designed by English inventor Herbert AkroydStuart.

1892: The essay Theory and Construction of a Rational Heat Motor is written by German engineer Rudolf Diesel. The essay discusses several concepts that led to the invention of the diesel engine.

1897: The first functional diesel engine – called the Motor 250/400 and designed by Rudolf Diesel– is built by Maschinenfabrik Augsburg in Germany.

1897: The first flat engine is built by Carl Benz. The configuration used later became known as a boxer engine,due to the pistons "punching" back and forth simultaneously.

1897: An ignition magneto is adapted for use in a motor vehicle engine by German engineer Robert Bosch.

1902: The first V8 engine is built by French engineer Léon Levavasseur. The engine called the Antoinette8V was used for early French airplanes.

1903: The first gas turbine that was able to produce more power than needed to run its own components is built by Norwegian inventor ÆgidiusElling.

1904: The first overhead valve engine in a mass-production car is fitted to the American Buick Model B sedan.

1905: The exhaust-driven turbocharger is patented by Swiss engineer Alfred Büchi.

1908: The world's first rotary engine produced for aircraft in commercial quantities – the seven-cylinder Gnome Omega – begins production by French company Société Des Moteurs Gnome.

1910: The first overhead camshaft engine in a mass-production car is fitted to theItalian Isotta Fraschini Tipo KM luxury car.

1913:The ramjet design for a jet engine is patented by French engineer René Lorin.

1921: The concept of an axial-flow gas-turbine engine is patented by French engineer Maxime Guillaume.

1925: The first gasoline direct injection engine – the Hesselman engine for trucks and buses – is built by Swedish engineer Jonas Hesselman.

1926: The oretical improvements in the efficiency of jet engines are proposed in the research paper Aerodynamic Theory of Turbine Design by English engineer Alan Arnold Griffith. Among the suggestions are the design for a turboprop and changing the turbine blades from a flat profile into an airfoil.

1926: The first liquid-propellant rocket is built by American physicist Robert Goddard.

1926: The first double overhead camshaft engine for a production car is fitted to the English Sunbeam 3-litre sports car.

1930: The concept of a turbojet engine is patented by English engineer Frank Whittle. The first successful operation of this engine occurred in 1937.

1931: The first working pulsejet engine is designed by American engineer RobertGoddard.

1935: The first mass-production diesel engine for a passenger car –the Mercedes-Benz OM 138 – begins production in Germany.

1937: The first turbojet engine– the Heinkel HeS 1 prototype engine – is built by German inventors Hansvon Ohain and Ernst Heinkel. In 1939, the successor Heinkel HeS 3 engine completes the first flight of a turbojet-powered aircraft.

1941:The Caproni Campini C.C.2 motorjet,designed by the Italian engineer Secondo Campini, was the first aircraft to incorporate an afterburner. The first flight of a C.C.2, with its after burners operating, took place on 11 April 1941.

1942: The first operational jet engine-powered airplane – the German Messers chmitt Me 262 fighter-bomber airplane – completes its first flight.

1949: The first airplane powered by a ramjet engine – the Leduc 0.10 –completes a test flight. The ramjet engine was designed by French engineer René Leduc.

1952: The first fuel injection system for a production passenger car – a mechanical injection system produced by Robert Bosch GmbH –is used in the German Goliath GP700 small sedan.

1957: The first working prototype of the piston less Wankel engine (sometimes called a rotary engine) is built by German engineer Felix Wankel.

1957: First usage of electronic fuel injection (EFI) in a production passenger car, usingthe American Bendix Electrojector system.

1967:The Rolls-Royce RB.203 Trent becomes the first three-spool engine.

1969:The Pratt & Whitney JT9D engine was the first high bypass ratio jetengine to power a wide-body airliner.

1970: Thefirst geared turbofan enginewas created.

1979: Hondareleases the Honda NR500 withoval pistons.

1981: Ferrari126C F1 car used a Hot vee turbocharged engine in 1981.

1983: Isuzu builds a ceramic engine that runs on diesel and consumes half the fuel of other comparable engines of the time. Ceramic was used as the material in the cylinders of the engine.

1989: VTEC was introduced as a DOHC (dualoverhead camshaft) system in Japan in the 1989 HondaIntegra XSim

Early1990s: Carburetors hadbeen replaced by fuelinjection. 

1991: Toyotadevelops laser-clad valveseats. They entered mass production in1997.

1995: Toyotaintroduces VVT-i.

2004: Thefirst scramjet-poweredairplane – the NASA X-43 prototype – completes a test flight.

2006:The BMW Hydrogen 7 isoffered with a hydrogen internal combustion engine

2008: BMWN63 was the first production Hotvee turbocharged engine, used in the US-made BMWX6 since 2008.

2008: Fordpublishes the use of a Plasma Transferred Wire Arc process for making highlysmooth cylinder liners, used in mass production in 2015.

2011:Mitsubishi develops a gas turbine with a combustion temperature of 1600°C.

2013: GeneralElectric starts development of the GE9X with a compression ratio of 61:1.

2014: Liquidpiston shows a prototype of an enginewith a design similar to an inverted Wankel engine: The combustion chamber istriangular while the rotor is oval.

2017: The 2019Infiniti QX50 is available with a turbocharged Variable compression ratio engine.

2017: Achates Power showsa maximum brake thermal efficiency of 55 percent in a reciprocating engine.

2020: Maserati introducespre-chamber ignition in its commercially available Nettuno engine.

2021: Duringthe COP26 conference, 24 countries committed to all new cars sold being zero emission vehicles (effectively banning the production of petrol-poweredor diesel-powered cars) by the year 2040.

2022: TheAvadi MA-250 engine features a design in which the piston and connecting rodsrotate during engine operation.

2022: Hyundai stops internal combustion engine development.

2023: The first ammonia powered engine for cars is developed by GAC Group.