# Internal combustion dynamics

• physior
In summary: Basically, you hit the piston with the piston head, and then release it. This causes the crankshaft to turn a certain number of times. The number of times the crankshaft turns is proportional to the amount of power you are applying to the engine.

#### physior

hello

I am interested to know in detail, how internal combustion engines work dynamically, ie. as the demand for speed and torque change

what happens exactly? I know that when we want more speed/torque, we push the gas pedal, but what happens exactly between that moment and the increased rpm of the engine?

different amount of fuel in the chamber, results in faster rotation of the piston? can I see a graph of this relation?

physior said:
hello

I am interested to know in detail, how internal combustion engines work dynamically, ie. as the demand for speed and torque change

what happens exactly? I know that when we want more speed/torque, we push the gas pedal, but what happens exactly between that moment and the increased rpm of the engine?

different amount of fuel in the chamber, results in faster rotation of the piston? can I see a graph of this relation?
Basically, the engine is throttled after it has started by restricting the amount of air which can flow into the cylinders. There is a plate fitted into the air intake which can rotate, such that either the opening is mostly closed, in which case the engine is running at very low speed, or the opening is such that the airflow almost entirely unrestricted. The gas pedal is directly connected to this plate, and the operator of the engine opens the throttle plate wider by pressing on the pedal with his foot.

An engine is designed to run with a set amount of fuel in proportion to the amount of air entering the engine. More air = more fuel = faster engine RPM = more power.

is there a mechanical mechanism to trigger the ignition according to different rpms? what is the mechanism exactly?

also, can I know the graph of the air/fuel intake and speed/power of piston?

physior said:
is there a mechanical mechanism to trigger the ignition according to different rpms? what is the mechanism exactly?
With a purely mechanical ignition system, a distributor was driven by the engine, and the distributor had a special cam fitted which was timed to open a switch when a certain cylinder had a compressed mixture of fuel and air inside. When the switch opened, it would allow a high voltage current created by an electrical induction coil to flow into the spark plug wire, into the spark plug in the cylinder. The current would jump the spark gap and ignite the fuel mixture.

With an electronic system, mechanical switches are no longer used to trigger the current to each cylinder. Instead, a magnetic pick-up senses the position of the crankshaft of the engine and fires the spark plug in the proper cylinder.

also, can I know the graph of the air/fuel intake and speed/power of piston?

It's not clear what you mean here.

Instead of playing Twenty Questions about internal combustion engines, do some research first. Remember, we have been discussing Spark Ignition, or gasoline, engines so far. Compression Ignition, or diesel, engines are internal combustion engines, too, and they function slightly differently.

Here are some articles to get you started:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrol_engine

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/engine1.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_engine

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/diesel.htm

Whole textbooks have been written on the design and performance of automotive internal combustion engines. Good Luck! :)

First, let's start by stating that all you need to control is the torque of the engine. If you increase the torque to a point where it is greater than the load on the crankshaft, it will result into an acceleration of the crankshaft rpm (and vice-versa).

To control the torque of the engine, you need to vary the force applied on the piston. You do so by varying the amount of fuel burned in the combustion chamber.

There are basically 3 ways of accomplishing this in typical internal combustion engines:

You vary the amount of fuel injected in the cylinder. This is how a diesel engine works. When you press the gas pedal, more or less fuel is injected into a cylinder filled with fresh air. The difficulty with that method is to properly mix the fuel with the air to obtain the proper air-fuel ratio for a complete combustion; thus only part of the air is used for the combustion and that is why, for a given power output, diesel engines have generally a larger displacement compared to petrol engines.

You vary the amount of air going into the cylinder. This is how a petrol engine works. When you press the gas pedal, more or less air is permitted to enter the cylinder. The fuel is pre-mixed with the air - in the proper ratio - prior to enter the cylinder (or while it enters the cylinder).

You vary the amount of power strokes per cycle.
This is a method that was used on early industrial petrol engines. It is referred to as the hit-and-miss cycle. There is no gas pedal per say. The engine is auto regulating itself to maintain a certain rpm. When the engine tends to go below that rpm (either because the engine load was increased or the friction alone slows down the engine), the fuel mixture is permitted to enter the cylinder and completely fill it. This gives a huge explosion that accelerate the engine's rpm. And after a few revolutions of «freely» rotating, the engine slows down again and the cycle repeat itself. Here's a video of such an engine, first with a full [electrical] load, then the load is reduced (unplugging the electrical load) and we can see (and hear that the number of strokes per cycle needed to keep the same rpm decreases:

thanks for the great info

how much energy is stored in a ml of gasoline (between the molecules) ?
how much energy we get out of combusting that ml?
what is the maximum percentage of combustion we can achieve? I suspect we cannot have 100% total combustion of a ml of gasoline

From the Automotive Handbook (4th ed. p. 232):
Calorific value of air-fuel mixture

The calorific value of the combustible air-fuel mixture determines the engine's output. Assuming a constant stoichiometric ratio, this figure remains roughly the same for all liquid gases and fuels (approx. 3500 ... 3700 kJ/m³).
As you can see this is the figure for the amount of energy per volume of air going into the cylinder and not per volume of fuel like you ask for. The later can vary from fuel to fuel, but when you consider the air-fuel ratio needed, it all comes down to basically the same value.
physior said:
what is the maximum percentage of combustion we can achieve? I suspect we cannot have 100% total combustion of a ml of gasoline
I think you mean «what is the maximum efficiency we can achieve? I suspect we cannot have 100% efficiency» and I would refer you to this Wikipedia article. Basically, an engine working with the Otto cycle (petrol engine) can theoretically convert 56-61% of the heat energy into mechanical energy. But since there are many departures from ideal behavior that waste energy, actual values are closer to 35%. You might expect about an extra 5% from an engine using the Diesel cycle.

thanks but I don't mean exactly that

I mean this:
I have read that in the engine, there is not always 100% combustion of the 14.5:1 stoichiometric air/fuel mix
some of the hydrocarbons are not burnt or not fully burnt

what are the current percentages of combustion that we achieve and how it can be increased?

Some info gathered from Design and simulation of two-stroke engines by Gordon P. Blair (1996, p.303-305):

The combustion efficiency (ηc) can be defined as:

ηc = ηo ηλ ηSE

Where ηo is an overall efficiency that express the incomplete combustion due to incomplete flame travel into the corners of particular combustion chambers, weak or ineffective ignition systems, poor burning in crevices and flame decay by quenching in most circumstances. Its value is between 0.85 and 0.90.

The scavening efficiency (SE) is defined as the mass of fresh air with respect to the total mass trapped inside the combustion chamber prior to the combustion; since exhaust gas may not have completely escape the cylinder during the previous cycle. The value of ηSE varies between 0.73 and 1.00. With well-designed 4-stroke engines, you can assume ηSE = 1.00.

The air factor (λ) represents the quantity of air versus the quantity of fuel present in the air-fuel mixture. The air factor affects combustion in 2 ways.

First, the more fuel is present, the more chance there will be that every oxygen molecule is involved in the combustion process. Although, too much fuel will alter proper fuel distribution in the mixture, thus dropping combustion efficiency.

Second, even if combustion efficiency is dropping while reducing the air factor, the air-fuel ratio (AFR) will also drop, but at a slower rate. Hence,the heat available will increase (until a point), even if combustion efficiency is not at its maximum value.

The combustion efficiency due to the air factor (ηλ) is different for SI (petrol) and CI (diesel) engines:

SI engines achieve a ηλ = 1 when λ is about 1.12. CI engines achieve a ηλ = 1 when λ > 2.00.

SI engines achieve a ηλ = 0.87 when λ is about 0.875 (when maximum heat is released). CI engines achieve a ηλ = 0.83 when λ = 1.25 (when maximum heat is released). Although, in the case of CI engines, there will be high level of black smoke at this value (see image below); Typical street vehicles won't probably go less than 1.65 for maximum performance (ηλ = 0.95).

interesting

so failing to achieve a complete combustion is not the bottleneck of energy loss in IC engines

physior said:
interesting

so failing to achieve a complete combustion is not the bottleneck of energy loss in IC engines

More than incomplete combustion, the major loss is the heat loss. Thermal efficiency of IC engines is about 35%. Energy is lost due to conduction (heating up of piston and engine cylinder) and radiation.

when we are NOT pressing the gas pedal, there is still flow of air/gas and combustion inside the engine?
just minimum to rotate minimally the engine?

Yes.

why do we need an electric motor to start the petrol motor?

physior said:
why do we need an electric motor to start the petrol motor?
How will you give the piston the first push before the fuel starts burning?

mmm I see...

Except when engines become too big, you don't really need a starter. A lawnmower or a small motorcycle is started with a pull cord or with a kick start.

This shows how easy it can be to start an engine with a kick start:

This is why we invented the starter:

yeah, but I am referring to cars mainly, car engines are considered larger, right?

## 1. What is internal combustion dynamics?

Internal combustion dynamics is the study of the physical process of converting chemical energy into mechanical energy through the controlled explosion of a fuel-air mixture inside an engine.

## 2. How does an internal combustion engine work?

An internal combustion engine works by drawing in a fuel-air mixture into a confined space, compressing it, and then igniting it with a spark. This explosion creates a rapid expansion of gases, which pushes on the engine's pistons and generates mechanical energy.

## 3. What are the different types of internal combustion engines?

There are two main types of internal combustion engines: spark-ignition engines and compression-ignition engines. Spark-ignition engines, also known as gasoline engines, use a spark plug to ignite the fuel-air mixture. Compression-ignition engines, also known as diesel engines, use compression and heat to ignite the fuel-air mixture without a spark plug.

## 4. What factors affect the efficiency of an internal combustion engine?

The efficiency of an internal combustion engine is affected by several factors, including the design of the engine, the fuel type and quality, the air-fuel ratio, and the operating conditions. Other factors, such as engine temperature and friction, also play a role in the engine's efficiency.

## 5. How has internal combustion technology evolved over time?

Internal combustion technology has evolved significantly since its invention in the 19th century. Advances in engine design, fuel quality, and control systems have led to increased efficiency, reduced emissions, and improved performance. In recent years, there has also been a shift towards alternative fuels and hybrid technologies to further improve the sustainability of internal combustion engines.

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