Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel
Born March 18, 1858 - Died September 29, 1913

Though best known for his invention of the pressure-ignited four stroke internal combustion heat engine that bears his name, the French-born Rudolf Diesel was also an eminent thermal engineer, a connoisseur of the arts, a linguist, and a social theorist. Born in Paris of Bavarian parents, Diesel studied at Munich Polytechnic. He began his career as a refrigerator engineer. For ten years he worked on various heat engines, including a solar-powered air engine.


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The famous text "Theory for the construction of a rational thermal engine to replace the steam engine and other internal combustion engines currently in use" of 1893, demonstrates Diesel's commitment to the implementation of thermodynamic principles in engine design. The design was intended to greatly raise the temperature of pure air via adiabatic compression. In this high temperature environment, when the piston was beginning to descend, fuel would be introduced in precise amounts and at the appropriate times, so that the combustion heat at any time would only replace heat lost through expansion. Consequently, less of the fuel's energy is lost as waste heat by "artificial cooling of the cylinder walls".

Diesel originally intended his engine to enable independent craftsmen and artisans to utilize locally available fuels, and better endure the powered competition of large industries that then virtually monopolized the predominant power source - the grossly inefficient steam engine. The present-day equivalent to the Diesel engine, then, would be a modern Stirling Engine.

During 1885 Diesel set up his first shop-laboratory in Paris and began his 13-year ordeal of creating his distinctive engine. At Augsburg, on August 10, 1893, Diesel's prime model, a single 10-foot iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time. It later exploded, and almost killed him. In spite of this, Diesel spent two more years making improvements and on the last day of 1896 demonstrated another model with the spectacular, if theoretical, mechanical efficiency of 75.6 percent, in contrast to the then-prevailing efficiency of the steam engine of 10 percent or less.

Although commercial manufacture was delayed another year and even then begun at a snail's pace, by 1898 Diesel was a millionaire from franchise fees in great part international. His engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft, and soon after were used in applications including mines, oil fields, factories, and transoceanic shipping.

Diesel was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976, for his invention of the Internal-Combustion Engine, U.S. Patent number 608,845.


References:

Website: National Inventors Hall of Fame, "Rudolf Diesel" (http://www.invent.org/book/book-text/31.html)

Website: California Energy Commission Homepage, "Rudolf Diesel" (http://www.energy.ca.gov/education/scientists/diesel.html)

Website: German Embassy New Delhi, "Rudolf Diesel", Walter Kaiser, August 1998 (http://www.germanembassy-india.org/news/june97/76gn16.htm)

Website: Discovery Channel School, "Diesel engine," original content provided by World Book Online, William H. Haverdink, December 9, 2001 (http://www.discoveryschool.com/homeworkhelp/ worldbook/atozscience/d/158600.html)

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