Petrol Engine

A petrol engine (known as a gasoline engine in North America) is an internal combustion engine with spark-ignition, designed to run on petrol (gasoline) and similar volatile fuels. It was invented in 1876 in Europe.

In most petrol engines, the fuel and air are usually pre-mixed before compression (although some modern petrol engines now use cylinder-direct petrol injection). The pre-mixing was formerly done in a carburetor, but now it is done by electronically controlled fuel injection, except in small engines where the cost/complication of electronics does not justify the added engine efficiency. The process differs from a diesel engine in the method of mixing the fuel and air, and in using spark plugs to initiate the combustion process. In a diesel engine, only air is compressed (and therefore heated), and the fuel is injected into very hot air at the end of the compression stroke, and self-ignites.

With both air and fuel in a closed cylinder, compressing the mixture too much poses the danger of auto-ignition — or behaving like a diesel engine. Because of the difference in burn rates between the two different fuels, petrol engines are mechanically designed with different timing than diesels, so to auto-ignite a petrol engine causes the expansion of gas inside the cylinder to reach its greatest point before the cylinder has reached the "top dead center" (TDC) position. Spark plugs are typically fired 10 degrees or so of crankshaft rotation before the piston reaches TDC, to allow time for the fuel-air charge to substantially complete combustion before too much expansion has occurred - gas expansion occurring with the piston moving down in the power stroke. Higher octane petrol burns slower, therefore it has a lower propensity to auto-ignite and its rate of expansion is lower. Thus, engines designed to run high-octane fuel exclusively can achieve higher compression ratios.

Petrol engines run at higher speeds than diesels, partially due to their lighter pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft (a design efficiency made possible by lower compression ratios) and due to petrol burning faster than diesel. However the lower compression ratios of a petrol engine give a lower efficiency than a diesel engine. To give an example, a petrol engine is like operating a bicycle in its lowest gear where each push from your feet adds little energy to the system, but you still expend energy to move your legs back to the TDC position.

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Famous quotes containing the words engine and/or petrol:

    The machine unmakes the man. Now that the machine is perfect, the engineer is nobody. Every new step in improving the engine restricts one more act of the engineer,—unteaches him.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

    What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Petrol is more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict.
    Simone Weil (1909–1943)