Internal combustion engine

engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber

An internal combustion engine is an engine in which combustion, or the burning of fuel, occurs on the inside. There are many kinds but the term often means the machine that Niklaus Otto invented. In this kind, fire makes pressure increase inside a sealed box (cylinder). The pressure pushes a rod which is attached to a wheel. The rod pushes the wheel and makes it spin around. The spinning wheel is attached to other wheels, such as four car wheels, with a belt or a chain. The engine is very strong and can make all the wheels move.

An animation showing a four-stroke engine running.

There can be many configurations of internal combustion engines such as the single piston engine, the inline engine, the flat engine, the V engine, the VR engine, the W engine, the X engine, the U engine, the H engine, the horizontal K engine, the opposed piston engine, the delta engine, the Wankel or rotary engine and the radial engine which is commonly used in planes.

The most common layouts among these engines are the V layout, and the inline layout. In the V engine, the pistons are aligned in a V shape if you look at them from the front. There can be V twin engines, with 2 pistons, V3 engines, V4 engines, V6 engines, V8 engines, V10 engine, V12 engines, V14 engines, V16 engines, V18 engine, V20 engine and V24 engines. The VR layout is the same as a V layout except the angle between the V shape is smaller. In inline engines, the pistons are aligned in a straight line. There can be inline 1 engines, also called a singular piston engine, all the way up to a straight 14 which was mainly used in older models of cars. Flat engines are the same as inline engines but are aligned horizontally.

W, X, U, H, Horizontal K, Delta and opposed piston engines all have different configurations. In the W engine, the pistons are aligned in a W shape if looked at from the front. The Bugatti Chiron, one of the fastest cars in the world, features a W engine. The pistons in a X are aligned to look like an X from the front. In the U engine, there a 2 inline engine with separate crankshafts and a shared output shaft. When looked at from the front of the engine block, it resembles a U shape. H engines are U engines except there are 2 more inline engines attached to the bottom of the existing inline engines from the U engine. The H and the U layout can be configured vertically or horizontally. In delta engines, the pistons are aligned in a triangle shape. However, there are 2 pistons per cylinder/combustion chamber, and therefore the minimum amount of pistons in a delta engine is 6. Horizontal K engines persist of 2 flat pistons facing opposite each other at the bottom and a V engine above them, making them look like a horizontal K. The Opposed piston engines also have 2 pistons per cylinder. They can be aligned Vertically or Horizontally. When there are only 2 pistons in the engine, they can also be called boxer engine.

Radial engines are commonly used in planes but can be rarely used in cars. An example of this is the Porsche 356 and the 1939 Plymouth Pickup. The pistons in are radial engine are aligned in a star shape. When having multiple sets of pistons, the engines can be stacked beside each other.

Rotary/Wankel engines work the same as a piston engine except it doesn't have a piston but instead has a rotor that also cycles through the 4 main stages of engines (intake, compression, combustion and exhaust).

As well as there are many engine layouts, there are many different parts to an engine. Some if these include pistons, camshafts, crankshafts, timing belts, valves and more. All parts of an engine need to be fully functional for it to work and all parts have a separate role. An engine works by first sending power from the car battery to the ignition coil which then causes an engine spark. The spark then ignites combustion in the cylinders and the combustion starts the engine.

There can be petrol or diesel engines in a car. In petrol or gasoline engines, it is required to have an ignition system to burn the fuel and air mixture. However, in diesel engines, the an ignition system is not required to burn the fuel but instead, they use a different type of fuel called diesel, similar to heating oil, and the fuel is burnt through extreme compression.

For extra power, more air is needed to increase the energy evolved per unit of fuel. This is where forced induction must take place. There are some ways of creating forced induction such as turbochargers and superchargers. Turbochargers rely on the volume and velocity of the exhaust to spin the turbine wheel in the middle of the turbocharger. Turbochargers should consume less power from the engine than superchargers and therefore suffer bad throttle response. This delay can also be referred to as turbo lag. Smaller turbochargers spool quickly and deliver more boost pressure at lower engine speeds but suffers at higher RPMs. On the contrary, Bigger turbos can deliver more power at higher revs but suffers low throttle response. There can be many turbocharger and the most common amount being 1 and 2. Superchargers on the other hand, have close to no lag time as the compressor is constantly spinning proportionally to the engine speed. However, they require torque from the engine to operate. Some common types of superchargers are the Roots-type supercharger, a Screw-type supercharger, and a Centrifugal-type supercharger. In a Roots-type supercharger there are paddles on two drums that are continuously rotating, that forces air into the intake. The Roots-type supercharger is a positive displacement device and therefore has the advantage of producing the same pressure ratio at any engine speed. A Screw-type supercharger, like the Roots-type supercharger, is a positive displacement device. They consist of 2 screws that compresses the air and are more efficient than roots type as they create a cooler air output than a roots supercharger but are more difficult to manufacture. A centrifugal-type supercharger, is not a positive displacement device. Although it looks like a turbocharger, they are very different as the power source of the centrifugal supercharger is horsepower from the engines crankshaft whereas a turbocharger uses the exhaust gas to spin the compressor.

When using forced induction, the air temperature rises dramatically. To cool the air at higher temperatures, an intercooler is needed. An intercooler cools the air before it enters the cylinder (combustion chamber) using air or water. When hot air enters the combustion chamber, it decreases the fuel efficiency as warm air holds less oxygen than cool air. An air to air intercooler uses the cool air from outside to cool the existing hot air as it enters the intercooler. The more surface area the intercooler has the cooler the air can get. There are 2 types of air to air intercooler, the bar and plate intercooler and the tube and fin intercooler. Bar and plate intercoolers can cool the air to lower temperature but a tube and fin intercooler can cost less and also weight less. In air to water intercoolers, instead of using air from outside, it uses a cool liquid to cool the air as it passes though and then uses a radiator to cool the cooling liquid. Air to water intercooler are more complex, heavier and more expensive than air to water intercoolers but can be more efficient than them.

Engines need oil to make them slippery or the moving parts would grind together and stick. Parts of a car engine are measured to 0.01 of a millimetre and some engine parts fit together very tightly.

Internal differs from external combustion where the fire is outside the engine, such as a steam engine.

Most road vehicles use the internal combustion engine today, and most of those use the four-stroke engine.

Gas turbines are internal combustion engines that work continuously, not by strokes. Rocket engines and guns are internal combustion engines but they do not turn wheels.