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Meghan Stouter

Dr. Eser
March 5, 2014
Reflective Essay One

Transportation has changed dramatically from the beginning of humanity to present
times. From the invention of the wheel, the domestication of animals, the creation of boats and
trains, to the development of airplanes, transportation has constantly evolved to what it is
today. Perhaps one of the most important contributions to our newfound, convenient modes of
transportation was the creation of the internal combustion engine (ICE). This invention made it
possible for us to have more efficient cars, planes, trains, and boats, thus increasing the
effectiveness of transportation.
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel (normally
a fossil fuel) occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber (Internal
Combustion Engine). In these engines, the expansion of the high-temperature and high-
pressure gases produced by combustion applies direct force to pistons, turbine blades, or
nozzles causing them to move and generate mechanical energy. Nicolaus Otto is credited for
the ICEs serious development when in 1866, he designed the gasoline powered two-stroke
engine (Smil, 122). His design paved the way for multiple innovations of the engine and helped
it develop into the one we use on a day-to-day basis in our automobiles and other forms of
transit. Prior to the development of the internal combustion engine, external combustion
engines (most famously the steam engine) were the most widely used. In these, the fuel burns
outside the engine to create steam, and the steam creates motion inside the engine. While
these engines revolutionized transportation in the steam boat and train industries, they were
much too big and less efficient than the new internal combustion engines (Brain). After their
creation in the nineteenth century, internal combustion engines quickly spread across the globe
because of all of the benefits they have to offer and their applicability to automobiles.
The internal combustion engine brought about various advantages to the transportation
industry; some of these benefits include: greater mechanical simplicity, higher power output
per unit weight because of absence of auxiliary units like a boiler, condenser and feed pump,
low initial cost, higher brake thermal efficiency because only a small fraction of heat energy of
the fuel is dissipated to a cooling system, they are compact units that require less space, and
they are able to easily start in cold conditions (Jagadeesha). In addition, the beginning of the
twentieth century provided us with a new way to obtain resources to make the engines run.
William Burton introduced the thermal cracking of crude oil. In this process the combination of
heat and high pressure breaks heavier, longer-chained hydrocarbons into lighter fractions
making it much simpler to access as well as bringing gas prices down (Smil, 122).
It is important to recognize the fact that the ICE forever changed transportation around
the world which is why I chose to reflect upon it. The average American drives around 13,476
miles per year, or 37 miles a day (Asphalts Getting Crowded). Without the invention of the
ICE it is impossible to tell where we would be in our transportation today. We might very well
still be relying on the much less efficient and safe steam engine. The internal combustion
engine has allowed us to commute to work on a daily basis, travel across the country on road-
trips, and visit friends and family on a regularly. Transportation is important because it allows
for trade between individuals as well as civilizations which we are highly dependent on. We use
IC engines in most of our cars, boats, and planes of all sizes. With transportation serving as
such an essential part of life, it is important to appreciate the technologies that assisted in its
increasing effectiveness, especially the internal combustion engine.

Works Cited
Asphalts Getting Crowded. Face the Facts USA. George Washington University. 25 Jan.
2013. Web. 05 March. 2014.
Brain, Marshall. How Car Engines Work. How Stuff Works. 05 April. 2000. How Stuff Works
Inc. Web. 05 March. 2014.
Internal Combustion Engine. Princeton U. Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 05 March. 2014
Jagadeesha, T. Internal Combustion Engines. NITC. Adichunchanagiri Institute of Technology.
n.d. Web. 05 March. 2014.
Combustion_ Engines/ Chapter1.pdf
Smil, Vaclav. Energy a Beginners Guide. Oneworld Publications. 2006. Print: 122-125.