What is External Combustion Engines?

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External Combustion Engines:

External combustion engines (EC engines) keep the fuel and exhaust products separately. They burn fuel in one chamber and warmth the working fluid inside the engine through a device or the engine’s wall.

In some respects, EC engines function similarly to their IC counterparts. They both require heat which is obtained by burning stuff. There are, however, several differences moreover.

EC engines use fluids that undergo thermal dilation-contraction or a phase shift, but whose chemical composition remains unaltered. The fluid used can either be gaseous (as within the Stirling engine), liquid (the Organic Rankine cycle engine), or change phase (as within the steam engine) — for IC engines, the fluid is sort of universally a liquid fuel and air mixture that combusts (changes its chemical composition). Finally, the engines can either exhaust the fluid after use like IC engines do (open-cycle engines) or continually use the identical fluid (closed-cycle engines).


Atmospheric Engines:

Surprisingly, the primary steam engines to work out industrial use generated work by creating a vacuum instead of pressure. Called ‘atmospheric engines’, these were ponderous machines and highly fuel inefficient. In time, steam engines took on the shape and characteristics we expect to determine from engines today and have become more efficient — with reciprocating steam engines introducing the piston system (still in use by IC engines today) or compound engine systems that re-used the fluid in cylinders at decreasing pressures to come up with extra ‘oomph’.

Today, steam engines have fallen out of widespread use: they’re heavy, bulky things, have much lower fuel efficiency and power-to-weight ratio than IC engines, and can’t change output as quickly. But if you’re not bothered by their weight, size, and with a gentle supply of labor, they’re awesome. As such, EC is currently employed with great success as a turbine engine for naval operations and power plants.

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