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What is an Internal Combustion Engine?

written by: Ricky • edited by: Swagatam • updated: 5/4/2009

We all take pride in showing off our latest automobiles and getting them decorated with the fanciest of accessories (at least most of us), but have you ever thought what makes the vehicle move at a speed which thrills (don’t forget the speed limits by the way)? Find out more about engines!!

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    Introduction

    In this article we are going to get introduced to the interesting world of internal combustion engines (never mind if you don’t get the meaning, you surely will once you finish reading this stuff), but let us start on a bit of a philosophical note. Whenever you see any sort of life form, you know for certain that it has got chemical reactions going inside them which make them move, eat, digest, sleep and die regardless of their species, age, size, color or creed. In the same way the moment you take your thoughts a bit off from the pride of your lovely iron damsel, you will notice that there is something similar which makes all the vehicles on this planet move, irrespective of their make, model, class or price. That as you must have imagined by now is the engine of the vehicle. Of course I don’t mean to demean the other equally important parts of the automobile but this could be compared to the heart which is at the core of the body, so lets get down to some basic cardiac studies.

    What is the Internal Combustion (Engine)?

    Those of you who are electronic geeks might see the term IC in conjunction with Integrated Circuits, but in the mechanical sense of the word this stands for Internal Combustion engines (if you are wondering whether there are any External Combustion engines as well, lets keep that a mystery for a while for later discussion). Of course you would certainly require a few years of study to learn fully about them but in these articles I will try to tell some of the basic points of interest to a non-technical person as well.

    To put in the most broad of the terms, an internal combustion engine can be defined as a machine which generates energy or power by burning some sort of fuel inside a closed chamber (hence the name Internal) which is known more popularly as the cylinder. Fuel and air are compressed to a very small volume to increase their temperature and pressure and behold, the spark ignites them adding fire to the fuel (opposite to the common saying of adding fuel to the fire) which makes it explode. Well don’t worry, such explosions are safely carried out under your bonnet within strong walls usually made of solid Cast Iron. The untamed energy of the explosion is converted into the rotary motion of your wheels using various paraphernalia which we shall get acquainted to in due course of time.

    Other Systems

    As you might intuitively imagine, since a lot of heat is being generated and lot of motion is present, there need to be other systems as well to cool down the engine as well as keep it well lubricated so that it goes on and on for a long time to come. The engine has several systems such as lubrication system, cooling system, gear arrangement and so forth which are a subject matter of different study and would be dealt with separately in other articles. In the meantime just ride with pride but do keep your feet (tires) on the ground while the head (steering) is held high.

    Internal combustion engines are not only used in cars but there are massive IC engines on board ships which provide the propulsion systems for these vessels.

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