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The diesel engine is one type of internal combustion engine; more specifically, it is a compression ignition engine, in which the fuel is ignited by being suddenly exposed to the high temperature and pressure of a compressed gas, rather than by a separate source of ignition, such as a spark plug, as is the case in of the gasoline engine.

Diesel cycle[]

[1] , after German engineer Rudolf Diesel [2], who invented it in 1892 and received the patent on February 23, 1893. Diesel intended the engine to use a variety of fuels including coal dust. He demonstrated it in the 1900 Exposition Universelle (1900) (World's Fair) using peanut oil (see biodiesel [3]).

How diesel engines work[]

When a gas is compressed, its temperature rises (see the combined gas law); a diesel engine uses this property to ignite the fuel. Air is drawn into the cylinder of a diesel engine and compressed by the rising piston at a much higher compression ratio than for a spark-ignition engine, up to 25:1. The air temperature reaches 700–900 °C, or 1300–1650 °F. At the top of the piston Stroke diesel fuel is injected into the combustion chamber at high pressure, through an atomising nozzle, mixing with the hot, high-pressure air. The mixture ignites and burns very rapidly. This contained explosion causes the gas in the chamber to heat up rapidly, which increases its pressure, which in turn forces the piston downwards. The connecting rod transmits this motion to the crankshaft, which is forced to turn, delivering rotary power at the output end of the crankshaft. Scavenging (pushing the exhausted gas-charge out of the cylinder, and drawing in a fresh draught of air) of the engine is done either by ports or valves. To fully realize the capabilities of a diesel engine, use of a turbocharger to compress the intake air is necessary; use of an aftercooler/intercooler to cool the intake air after compression by the turbocharger further increases efficiency.

In very cold weather, diesel fuel thickens and increases in viscosity and forms wax crystals or a gel. This can make it difficult for the fuel injector to get fuel into the cylinder in an effective manner, making cold weather starts difficult at times, though recent advances in diesel fuel technology have made these difficulties rare. A commonly applied advance is to electrically heat the fuel filter and fuel lines. Other engines utilize small electric heaters called glow plugs inside the cylinder to warm the cylinders prior to starting. A small number use resistive grid heaters in the intake manifold to warm the inlet air until the engine reaches operating temperature. Engine block heaters (electric resistive heaters in the engine block) plugged into the utility grid are often used when an engine is shut down for extended periods (more than an hour) in cold weather to reduce startup time and engine wear.

A vital component of any diesel engine system is the governor, which limits the speed of the engine by controlling the rate of fuel delivery. Unlike a petrol (gasoline) engine, the incoming air is not throttled, so the engine would overspeed if this was not done. Older governors were driven by a gear system from the engine (and thus supplied fuel only linearly with engine speed). Modern electronically-controlled engines achieve this through the electronic control module (ECM) or electronic control unit (ECU) - the engine-mounted "computer". The ECM/ECU receives an engine speed signal from a sensor and then using its algorithms [1] and look-up calibration tables stored in the ECM/ECU, it controls the amount of fuel and its timing (the "start of injection") through electric or hydraulic actuators to maintain engine speed.

Controlling the timing of the start of injection of fuel into the pistons is key to minimising their emissions and maximising the fuel economy (efficiency) or the engine. The exact timing of starting this fuel injection into the cylinder is controlled electronically in most of today's modern engines. The timing is usually measured in units of crank angle of the piston before Top Dead Center (TDC). For example, if the ECM/ECU initiates fuel injection when the piston is 10 degrees before TDC, the start of injection or "timing" is said to be 10 deg BTDC. The optimal timing will depend on both the engine design as well as its speed and load.

Advancing (injecting when the piston is further away from TDC) the start of injection results in higher in-cylinder pressure and higher efficiency but also results in higher Nitrous Oxide (NOx [2]) emissions. At the other extreme, very retarded start of injection or timing causes incomplete combustion. This results in higher Particulate Matter (PM) emissions and higher smoke.

Fuel injection in diesel engines[]

Early diesels often employed indirect injection in order to use simple, flat-top pistons, and made the positioning of the early, bulky diesel injectors easier, but all modern diesel engines employ some form of direct injection, coupled with more complicated bowl-in-piston designs. Modern engines also use a very highly pressurised fuel supply line, which replaces the older, noisier, and mechanically more complicated combined pump and selector valve assembly (see below).

Indirect Injection[]

Main article: Indirect injection

An indirect injection diesel engine delivers fuel into a chamber off the combustion chamber, called a prechamber, where combustion begins and then spreads into the main combustion chamber. The prechamber is carefully designed to ensure adequate mixing of the atomized fuel with the compression-heated air. This has the effect of slowing the rate of combustion, which tends to reduce audible noise. It also softens the shock of combustion and produces lower stresses on the engine components. The addition of a prechamber, however, increases heat loss to the cooling system and thereby lowers engine efficiency.

Direct injection[]

Modern diesel engines make use of one of the following direct injection methods:

Common rail direct injection[]

For more details see Common rail

In older diesel engines, a distributor-type injection pump, regulated by the engine, supplies bursts of fuel to injectors which are simply nozzles through which the diesel is sprayed into the engine's combustion chamber. As the fuel is at low pressure and there cannot be precise control of fuel delivery, the spray is relatively coarse and the combustion process is relatively crude and inefficient.

In common rail systems, the distributor injection pump is eliminated. Instead an extremely high pressure pump stores a reservoir of fuel at high pressure - up to 1,800 bar (180 MPa) - in a "common rail", basically a tube which in turn branches off to computer-controlled injector valves, each of which contains a precision-machined nozzle and a plunger driven by a solenoid. Driven by a computer (which also controls the amount of fuel to the pump), the valves, rather than pump timing, control the precise moment when the fuel injection into the cylinder occurs and also allow the pressure at which the fuel is injected into the cylinders to be increased. As a result, the fuel that is injected atomises easily and burns cleanly, reducing exhaust emissions and increasing efficiency.

In addition, the engine's Electronic Control Unit (ECU) can inject a small amount of diesel just before the main injection event ("pilot" injection) that reduces noise and vibration, as well as optimises injection timing and quantity for variations in fuel quality, cold starting, and so on.

Most European automakers have common rail diesels in their model lineups, even for commercial vehicles. Some Japanese manufacturers, such as Toyota, Nissan and recently Honda, have also developed common rail diesel engines.

Unit direct injection[]

This also injects fuel directly into the cylinder of the engine. However, in this system the injector and the pump are combined into one unit positioned over each cylinder. Each cylinder thus has its own pump, feeding its own injector, which prevents pressure fluctuations and allows more consistent injection to be achieved. This type of injection system, also developed by Bosch, is used by Volkswagen AG in cars (where it is called Pumpe Düse - literally "pump nozzle"), and most major diesel engine manufacturers, in large commercial engines (Cat, Cummins, Detroit Diesel). With recent advancements, the pump pressure has been raised to 2,050 bar (205 MPa), allowing injection parameters similar to common rail systems.

== Types of diesel engines: There are two classes of diesel engines: two-stroke and four-stroke. Most diesels generally use the four-stroke cycle, with some larger diesels operating on the two-stroke cycle. ==

Normally, banks of cylinders are used in multiples of two, although any number of cylinders can be used as long as the load on the crankshaft is counterbalanced to prevent excessive vibration. The inline-6 is the most prolific in medium- to heavy-duty engines, though the V8 and straight-4 are also common.

Advantages and disadvantages versus spark-ignition engines[]

Diesel engines are often perceived to be much more efficient than gasoline/petrol engines of the same power, resulting in lower fuel consumption than gasoline engines. A common margin is 40% more miles per gallon for an efficient turbodiesel over a gasoline engine. However, most of this "improvement" is because the diesel fuel itself has more energy per gallon than gasoline, not because of significantly greater efficiencies of the diesel cycle. The diesel cycle and the higher compression ratio is indeed helpful in raising efficiency, but diesel fuel [4] contains approximately 30% more energy per unit volume than gasoline [5], and this is the crucial factor in creating the impression of significantly greater efficiency of diesels.

Naturally aspirated diesel engines are more massive than gasoline/petrol engines of the same power for two reasons; the first is that it takes a larger capacity diesel engine than a gasoline engine to produce the same power. This is essentially because the diesel cannot operate as quickly - the "rev limit" is lower - because getting the fuel-air mixture into a diesel engine is more difficult than a gasoline engine [6]. The second reason is that a diesel engine must be stronger to withstand the higher combustion pressures needed for ignition.

Yet it is this same build quality that has allowed some enthusiasts to acquire significant power increases with turbocharged engines through fairly simple and inexpensive modifications. A gasoline engine of similar size cannot put out a comparable power increase without extensive alterations because the stock components would not be able to withstand the higher stresses placed upon them. Since a diesel engine is already built to withstand higher levels of stress, it makes an ideal candidate for performance tuning with little expense. However it should be said that any modification that raises the amount of fuel and air put through a diesel engine will increase its operating temperature which will reduce its life and service interval requirements. These things are issues with newer, lighter, "high performance" diesel engines which aren't "overbuilt" to the degree of older engines and are being pushed to provide greater power in smaller engines.

The addition of a turbocharger or supercharger to the engine (see turbodiesel) greatly assists in increasing fuel economy and power output. Boost pressures can be higher on diesels than gasoline engines, and the higher compression ratio allows a diesel engine to be more efficient than a comparable spark ignition engine. Although the calorific value [7] of the fuel is slightly lower at 45.3 megajoules [8] per kilogram to gasoline at 45.8 MJ/kg, diesel fuel is much heavier and fuel is sold by volume, so diesel contains more energy per litre or gallon.

The recent development of biofuel [9] alternatives to fossil fuels has unleashed the ability to produce a net-sum of zero emissions of CO2, as it is re-absorbed into plants and then comes full circle, being used to produce the fuel.

Diesel engines produce very little carbon monoxide as they burn the fuel in excess air except when under full load, at which point a full stochiometric [10] quantity of fuel is injected per cycle. However, they can produce black soot from their exhaust, consisting of unburned carbon compounds. This is often caused by worn injectors, which do not atomize the fuel sufficiently, or a faulty engine management system which allows more fuel to be injected than can be burned with the available air. Particles of the size normally called PM10 (particles of 10 micrometres or smaller) have been implicated in health problems, especially in cities. Modern diesel engines catch the soot in a particle filter, which when saturated is automatically regenerated by burning the particles. Other problems associated with the exhaust gases (nitrogen oxide, sulfurous fumes) can be mitigated with further investment and equipment; some diesel cars now have catalytic converters in the exhaust.

The lack of an electrical ignition [11] system greatly improves the reliability. The high durability of a diesel engine is also due to its overbuilt nature (see above) as well as the diesel's combustion cycle, which creates less-violent changes in pressure when compared to a spark-ignition engine, a benefit that is magnified by the lower rotating speeds in diesels. Diesel fuel is a better lubricant than gasoline so is less harmful to the oil film on piston rings and cylinder bores; it is routine for diesel engines to cover 250,000 miles or more without a rebuild.

Unfortunately, due to the greater compression force required and the increased weight of the stronger components, starting a diesel engine is a harder task. More torque is required to push the engine through compression.

Either an electrical starter or an air start system is used to start the engine turning. On large engines, pre-lubrication and slow turning of an engine, as well as heating, are required to minimize the possibility of damaging the engine during initial start-up and running. Some smaller military diesels can be started with an explosive cartridge that provides the extra power required to get the machine turning. In the past, Caterpillar and John Deere used a small gasoline "pony" motor in their tractors to start the primary diesel motor. The pony motor heated the diesel to aid in ignition and utilized a small clutch and transmission to actually spin up the diesel engine. Even more unusual was an International Harvester design in which the diesel motor had its own carburetor and ignition system, and started on gasoline. Once warmed up, the operator moved two levers to switch the motor to diesel operation, and work could begin. These engines had very complex cylinder heads (with their own gasoline combustion chambers) and in general were vulnerable to expensive damage if special care was not taken (especially in letting the engine cool before turning it off).

Aircraft, Airship, Hovercraft and Light Engine[]

Based on the opposed piston two stroke principle used by Junkers, Rolls-Royce, Napier and Coventry Climax, a recent addition to the diesel family of engines is from the This is designed to be light weight, affordable and powerful the horizontally opposed aircraft engine replacement. The advent of a liquid cooled 100 hp twin cylinder, four piston twin stroke diesel by Diesel Air Limited in the United Kingdom is sure to send waves through the light engine community. Called a "Dair-100" this revolutionary powerplant is new to the market and is designed to run on both diesel and A1 jet fuel.

One company now is producing the powerplant for use. Successful test flights and use in the The Airship Technologies AT-10 airship first flew with DAIR-100 engines on 28 March 2002. With a displacement of 1810 cc the Dair is the first of a number of aluminium diesel aircraft engines up to 600 horsepower (450 kW) that have a comparable power to weight ratio comparable with modern petrol engines.

Automobile racing[]

Although the weight and lower output of a diesel engine tend to keep them away from automotive racing applications, there are many diesels being raced in classes that call for them, mainly in truck racing, as well in types of racing where these drawbacks are less severe, such as land speed record racing. Diesel engined dragsters even exist, despite the diesel's drawbacks being central to performance in this sport. In 1952, Cummins Diesel won the pole at the Indianapolis 500 race with a supercharged 3 liter diesel car, relying on torque and fuel efficiency to overcome weight and low peak power, and led most of the race until the badly situated air intake of the car swallowed enough debris from the track to disable the car.

Recently, there had been a renewed interest in racing with diesel engine and the VAG is one of the best example. Their DAKAR rally entrants for 2005 and 2006 are powered by their own line of TDI engines. Meanwhile, the five time Le Mans winner Audi R8 race car was replaced by the R10 in Le Mans 2006 and 2007, which is powered by a 650 hp (485 kW) and 1100 N•m (810 lbf•ft) V12 TDI Common Rail diesel engine. That car won the race in both years, the first such accomplishment for a diesel car. Audi R10

Dieseling in spark-ignition engines[]

A gasoline (spark ignition) engine can sometimes act as a compression ignition engine under abnormal circumstances, a phenomenon typically described as "pinging" or "pinking" (during normal running) or "dieseling" (when the engine continues to run after the electrical ignition system is shut off). This is usually caused by hot carbon deposits within the combustion chamber that act as would a "glow plug" within a diesel or model aircraft engine. Excessive heat can also be caused by improper ignition timing and/or fuel/air ratio which in turn overheats the exposed portions of the spark plug within the combustion chamber.

Fuel and fluid characteristics[]

Diesel engines can operate on a variety of different fuels, depending on configuration, though the eponymous diesel fuel [12] derived from crude oil [13] is most common. Good-quality diesel fuel can be synthesised from vegetable oil [14] and alcohol [15]. Biodiesel [16] is growing in popularity since it can frequently be used in unmodified engines, though production remains limited. Petroleum-derived diesel is often called "petrodiesel" if there is need to distinguish the source of the fuel.

The engines can work with thicker, heavier oil, or oil with higher viscosity, as long as it is heated to ease pumping and injection. These fuels are cheaper than clean, refined diesel oil, although they are dirtier. The biofuels straight vegetable oil (SVO) and waste vegetable oil [17] (WVO) can fall into this category. Moving beyond that, use of low-grade fuels can lead to serious maintenance problems. Most diesel engines that power ships like supertankers are built so that the engine can safely use low grade fuels.

Ethanol [18] is also used in some cases, since it has a high octane rating [19] which means it can be highly compressed before spontaneously igniting. One way this is used is in E95 fuel [20] which actually contains 5% gasoline along with 95% ethanol.

Normal diesel fuel is more difficult to ignite than gasoline because of its higher flash point [21] , but once burning, a diesel fire can be extremely fierce.

Diesel applications[]

The vast majority of modern heavy road vehicles (trucks), ships, large-scale portable power generators, most farm and mining vehicles, and many long-distance locomotives have diesel engines. However, in the U.S. they are not as popular in passenger vehicles as they are in Europe as they are perceived as being heavier, noisier, of having performance characteristics which makes them slower to accelerate, and of being more expensive than petrol vehicles. In addition, before the mandatory reduction of sulphur in on-road diesel fuel to 15 parts per million, which will start at 15 Oct 2006 (2006-10-15) in the U.S. (1 June 2006 (2006-06-01) in Canada), diesel fuel used in North America has higher sulphur content than the fuel used in Europe, effectively limiting diesel use to industrial vehicles.

In Europe, where tax rates in many countries make diesel fuel much cheaper than petrol, diesel vehicles are very popular and newer designs have significantly narrowed differences between petrol and diesel vehicles in the areas mentioned. One anecdote tells of Formula One driver Jenson Button, who was arrested while driving a diesel-powered BMW coupe at 230 km/h (about 140 mph) in France, where he was too young to have a petrol-engined car hired to him. Button dryly observed in subsequent interviews that he had actually done BMW a public relations service, as nobody had believed a diesel could be driven that fast. The BMW diesel lab in Steyr, Austria is led by Ferenc Anisits and is considered to be a leader in development of automotive diesel engines. Similarly, Mercedes Benz had a successful run of diesel-powered passenger cars in the late 1970s and 1980s. After a hiatus in the 1990s with relatively few diesel cars in its lineup, Mercedes Benz has revived diesel cars in its newer ranges with an emphasis on high performance versus the older models' lack thereof.

High-speed (approximately 1200 rpm and greater) engines are used to power lorries (trucks), buses, tractors, cars, yachts, compressors, pumps and small generators.
Large electrical generators are driven by medium speed engines, (approximately 300 to 1200 rpm) optimised to run at a set speed and provide a rapid response to load changes.
The largest diesel engines are used to power ships. These monstrous engines have power outputs over 80,000 kW, turn at about 60 to 100 rpm, and are up to 15 m tall. They often run on cheap low-grade fuel, which require extra heat treatment in the ship for tanking and before injection due to their low volatility. Companies such as Burmeister & Wain and Wärtsilä (e.g., Sulzer Diesels) design such large low speed engines. They are unusually narrow and tall due to the addition of a crosshead bearing. Today (2005), the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C turbocharged two-stroke diesel engine is the most powerful and most efficient prime-mover in the world, with cylinder bores of 960 mm (37.8 in) and stroke of 2500 mm (98.4 in), producing up to 80,080 kW (107,390 hp) in the 14-cylinder configuration.

The zeppelins [22] Graf Zeppelin II and Hindenburg_disaster [23] were propelled by reversible diesel engines. The direction of operation was changed by shifting gears on the camshaft. From full power forward, the engines could be brought to a stop, changed over, and brought to full power in reverse in less than 60 seconds. This was done before reversible pitch propeller [24] s for aircraft had been perfected. Reversible diesel engines have also been used in tugboats, ferries and other watercraft. [25] The weight and complexity of a gearbox in the power train is avoided by employing a reversing camshaft. The penalty is a dead interval during which the engine is inoperative, after which it was generally restarted with compressed air [26].

A few airplanes have been built that use diesel engines, such as the Junkers-powered Blohm & Voss Ha 139 of the late 1930s. This is quite rare because of the high importance of power-weight ratios in aeronautical applications, and the development of kerosene-powered jet engines and the closely-related turboprop engines. However, this may change in the near future. The newer automotive diesels have power-weight ratios comparable to the ancient spark-ignition designs common in general aviation aircraft, and have better fuel efficiency. Their use of electronic fuel injection, and sophisticated engine management systems also makes them far easier to operate than mass-produced spark-ignition aircraft engines, most of which still use carburetors. Combined with Europe's very favourable tax treatment of diesel fuel compared to petrol, these factors have led to considerable interest in diesel-powered small general aviation planes, and several manufacturers have recently begun selling diesel engines for this purpose. The Diamond Twin Star is currently one of the very few general aviation aircraft manufactured with diesel engines. It can be twice as efficient as a comparable twin aircraft due to the diesel engines made by Thielert. Another major advantage for aviation users is that diesel engines can be fuelled with jet fuel, which is produced in a much greater quantity than avgas. See aircraft engine.

Also, some motorcycles have been built using diesel engines.

Current and future developments[]

Already, many common rail and unit injection systems employ new injectors using stacked piezoelectric crystals in lieu of a solenoid, which gives finer control of the injection event.

Variable geometry turbochargers have flexible vanes, which move and let more air into the engine depending on load. This technology increases both performance and fuel economy. Boost lag is reduced as turbo impeller inertia is compensated for.

A technique called accelerometer pilot control (APC) uses a sensor called an accelerometer to provide feedback on the engine's level of noise and vibration and thus instruct the ECU to inject the minimum amount of fuel that will produce quiet combustion and still provide the required power (especially while idling.)

The next generation of common rail diesels are expected to use variable injection geometry, which allows the amount of fuel injected to be varied over a wider range, and variable valve timing similar to that on gasoline engines.

At least in the US, diesels will slowly face displacement by tougher emissions regulations. Other methods to achieve even more efficient combustion, such as HCCI (homogeneous charge compression ignition), are being studied.

Modern diesel facts[]

(Source: Robert Bosch GmbH)

Fuel passes through the injector jets at speeds of nearly 1500 miles per hour (2400 km/h) – as fast as the top speed of a jet plane.

Fuel is injected into the combustion chamber in less than 1.5 milliseconds (one and a half thousandths of a second) – about as long as a camera flash.

The smallest quantity of fuel injected is one cubic millimetre – about the same volume as the head of a pin. The largest injection quantity at the moment for automobile diesel engines is around 70 cubic millimetres.

If the camshaft of a six-cylinder engine is turning at 4500 rpm, the injection system has to control and deliver 225 injection cycles per second.

On a demonstration drive, a Volkswagen 1-liter diesel-powered car used only 0.89 liter of fuel in covering 100 kilometers – making it probably the most fuel-efficient car in the world. Bosch’s high-pressure fuel injection system was one of the main factors behind the prototype’s extremely low fuel consumption. Production record-breakers in fuel economy include the Volkswagen Lupo 3L TDI and the Audi A2 3L 1.2 TDI with standard consumption figures of 3 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. Their high-pressure diesel injection systems are also supplied by Bosch.

In 2001, nearly 36% of newly registered cars in Western Europe had diesel engines. Austria leads the league table of registrations of diesel-powered cars with 66%, followed by Belgium with 63% and Luxembourg with 58%. Germany, with 34.6% in 2001, was in the middle of the league table. By way of comparison: in 1996, diesel-powered cars made up only 15% of the new car registrations in Germany.

In 1998, for the very first time in the history of the legendary 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, a diesel-powered car was the overall winner – the BMW works team 320d, fitted with modern high-pressure diesel injection technology from Bosch.

See also[]

  • Elsbett [27] - An improved multi-fuel diesel engine design

External links[]

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