The Gas Engine

Dugald Clerk
1885 Scientific American  
I tion or gas engine, often without any definite underproducing pressures in any sense dangerous to a proper I standing of why they should attempt such apparent ly constructed engine. By DUGALD CLERK. impossibilities, but always by their experiments and The pressure produced by the explosion of any mix-IN earlier days of mechanics, before the work of the repeated failures i�creasing knowledge, and forming a ture of gas and air is strictly determined and limited, great Scottish engineer, James
more » ... h engineer, James Watt, the crude steam firm road upon WhlCh those following them traveled to whereas the pressure produced by the explosion of gun engines of the time were known as "fire engines," not success. powder depends greatly upon the relation between the in the sense in which we now apply the term to ma-In 17 � 1 J . ohn Barber obtain !;!d. a p�ter;tt fo� a� e��ne volume of the gunpowder and the space in which it is chines for the extinguishing offires, but as indicating producmg m !iammable gas, nllxmg It wlth air, I gmtmg confined . the source from which the power was derived, motive it, and allow ! ng the current �o prorl �ced . to . impinge Engines of the "Lenoir" type are the simplest inidea power engines deriving their vitality and strength upon a reactlOn w � eel, p � oducmg mot IO n slmllar to the and construction; in them a mixture of gas and air is from fire. The modern name-steam engine-to some we i l known Aelo pI le . , W hlCh I have at work upon the made in the cylinder during the first haliof the piston extent is a misleading one, distractingthe mind from the table. � b0 !l t th ls time, Murd . och ( J �. Watt's as:'ist-�troke, air �ing taken from the atmosphere and drawn source of power to the medium which conveys the pow-ant at B�rllll�ghal . n) was busy mtroducmg_coal gas mto mto the cyhnder by the forward movement of the pis er. Similarly the name" Gas Engine" masks the fact I use fo� h ghhng; ! n 1792 Boulton and Watt's works I ton. At the same time gas entering by a number of of the motors so called being really fire or heat engines. were h� hted up w lth coal gas. From thi . s time !Ilany h<?les, and streaming into the air to form an explosive The gas engine is more emphatically a "fire engine" gas englr;tes were proposed, an� the more llnpr�tlCable m IXture, the movement ofa valve cuts off the supply, than ever the steam engine has been. In it the fire is combustlOn of gunpowder recelv:ed less attent IO n. and brings the igniting arrangement into action. The not tamed or diluted by indirect contact with water, I� 1794 '.!-' homas M �ad obtamed a �atent for an pressure produced by the explosion acting upon the but it is used direct; the fire, instead of being kept to engme .u sl .n g . the mternal cO l� bu . stlOn of gas ; piston makes it complete its stroke, when the exhaust the boiler room, is introduced direct into the motor cy-the desc n ptlOn IS not a clear one, his Ideas seem con-valve opens exactly as in the steam engine. The Lenoir linder of the engine. This at first sight looks very abf used. . and Hugon engines, the earlier forms of this type, were surd and impracticable; diftlculties at once become ap-In t�esame . ye�r Robert . Street obtame?a patent for �ouble acting, receivi�g two impulses for e�ery revolu parent of so overwhelming a nature that. the problem an engme WhlCl;t IS not un h1.':e some pow Ir;t use. The tlOn of the crank, the Impulse differing from that in a seems almost an impossible one; yet this is what has bot tom of a cy h nder, c<?n . t aming a p I s�on, IS �eated by high press ure steam engine in commencing at half been successfully accomplished in the gas engine. a fire, a few drops of SPI rits of turpen . tme 8;re mtroducstroke. Engineers accustomed to the constructionof steam en-ed an ?-evap � rated . by th !;! heat, � he pIston IS drawn up, The Lenoir igniting arrangement was complicated gines would not many years aga have considered any 8; nd a � r ente�mg mlxes wlth the mflam mable vapor . . A and troublesome. I have it upon the table; the mix one proposing such a thing as having taken leave of hg: ht IS app h ed . at a to �ch hole, . and the explOSIOn ture was ignited at the proper time by the electric spark his senses. drives up t�e piston, W hlCh, working.on a levp-r, forces produeed from a primary battery and Ruhmkorff coil. The late Sir William Siemens worked for many years down the PIS tO D: of a p�m p for pumpmg water. Robt. The Hugon engine was an advance in this l'espect, on combustion engines some of his patents on this sub-Street adds to hiS descrlpt Ion a note : " 'I . 'he quantity of using a flame ignited, and securing greater certainty of ject dating back to 1860. In the course of a conversa-spirits o. f tar or turpentine to be m�de use of is always action in a comparatively simple manner. ti on I had with him on the subject of his earlier pa-proport IO nal t ? the c ?, n , fin � d space, . m g �neral about 10 It i� rea�ly a . modification of Bamett's lighting cock tents, laskerl him why he had entitled one of those drops to a cublc foot. rhls engine IS qm�e a workable descrlbed m hiS patent of 1838. patents "steam en�ine improvements " when it was one, although the arrangements desc nbed are very Other diftlculties were found in using these engines; wholly concemed w l th a gas engine using hydrogen crude. . the pistons became exceedingly hot. In the case of the and air in the motive cylini:ler, the combustion of the The first gas eng I ne th 8 ; t was actu . ally at work for Lenoir larger engines, it sometimes became red hot, and hydrogen taking place in the motive cylinder. He an-some years, and was ap p�l ed to a var lety of p�rposes, caus�d compl,ete ruin of the cylinder by scoring and swered me that in 1860 he did not care to entitle his' was � am u el Bure � 's. HIS pat . ent was . grant�d m 1�23, cuttmg up. Hugon to prevent this injected some patent gas or combustion engine simply because engi-and m 1826 he bmlt a �ocomotI ve c�rrlage wlth wh lch water. neers at that time would have thought hirn mad. i he made several exp�rll�ental runs m London; he also In the all important question of economy, these en-Notwithstanding this widespread incredulity among , propelled a ve � sel wlth I t u .pon the Thames, and fitted !p-nes were found grievom<ly wanting, Lenoir consum engineers, and the apparent novelt.y of the gas engine. up a large en gm e for pump mg purposes. A company mg 95 cublc feet per I.H.P. per hour; Hugon consum idea, fire or combust.ion engines have been proposed' was fonued to introduce his engine, but. it proved too ing 85 cubic feet per I.H.P. per hour. long long ago. The first Newcomen steam engineever wasteful of fuel, and the compan y went into voluntary The surviving engines of this type are only used for set � work was �sed by a Mr. Back, of W olverhamJ?-liquidati ?u . Like almost �I l engines of this time, the very small powe rs , from one to four llIan power, or � to ton, in the year 17 11. Thirty-one years before thls combustlOn of . gas an � aIr . was used to pro . duce a � horse, the most widely known of t.his kind bemg time, in Paris-year 1680-H uyghens presented a me-vacuum, the piston bemg driven by atmospherlC pres-tf"e "Bischoff," which is very largely used; its consump moir to the Academy of Sciences describing a method l ure. ., tion of gas is even greater than the Lenoir, being 110 of utiIizing the expansive force of gunpowder. This Buren ' s locomot l ve ca :la&,e was thus in a�tion three cubic feet per �orse power per . l;t<?ur, as tested with a engineer is notable as being the very first to pro pose years before the great �n al �n 182�, fro� WhlCh George half-horse engme at a late exhibit IO n of gas apparatus the use of a cylinderand piston, as weIl as the first S�ephenson emerged vlCtorlOus wlth hiS wonderful enat Stockport. combustion engine of a practical kind. gme "Th � Rocket." To those curious in the matter, I So large a consumption of gas prevented these en-The engine consists of a vertical open topped cylin-may mentIOn that S. Buren's patents are dated 1823, gin es comillg into extended use for engines of moderate der, in which works a piston; the piston is connected No. 4,874, � nd . 1826, No. 5,350 :. power, and led inventors to work to obtain better re by a chain passing over a pulley above it to a heavy From thls time on, Il: cont I ?uous serles of gas engine sults. The force generated by the explosion of a mix weight; the upstroke is accomplished by the descent of patents app � r, 2 � engmes bemg patented between 1826 ture of gas and air is very short lived, and if it is to be the weight, which puUs the piston to the top of the cy-and 1 � 60, WhlC h IS the next date worthy of particular fuUy utilized must be used quickly; a high pressure is linder; gunpowder placed in a tray at the bottom of mentlO ? . . produced, but it very quickly disappears. the cylinder is now ignited, and expels the air with I n thls y ear , 1860, t � e famous "LenOlr" en . gme ap-The quicker the piston moves after the maximum which the cylinder is filled through a shifting valve peared. The use of hIgh pressure steam engmes had 1 pressure is reached, the less will be the loss of heat to and, . after the products of combustion have c?Oled, ti. lon g bee ,n commo u , and � enoir's engi t,te was analogous ; the . sides of the cylinder . . The flame which fills . the partial vacuum takes place and the atmosphe n c pres-to t � e high pressure engme, as Buren s wa . s to the con-: cylmder and ('auses the mcrease of pressure rapldly sure forces down the piston to the bottom of its stroke densmg e�gme. It created a very general mterest, and loses heat, and the pressure faUs. . during which work may be obtained.
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican04111885-7720supp fatcat:po623zpofjfexkcmg5rkfmqr4u