Rudolph Diesel (1858-1913) developed a theory that revolutionized the engines of his day. He envisioned an engine in which air is compressed to such a degree that there is an extreme rise in temperature. When fuel is injected into the piston chamber with this air, the fuel is ignited by the high temperature of the air, exploding it, forcing the piston down. Diesel designed his engine in response to the heavy resource consumption and inefficiency of the steam engine, which only produced 12% efficiency.What's old is new again.
On February 27, 1892, Diesel filed for a patent at the Imperial Patent Office in Germany. Within a year, he was granted Patent No. 67207 for a "Working Method and Design for Combustion Engines . . .a new efficient, thermal engine." With contracts from Frederick Krupp and other machine manufacturers, Diesel began experimenting and building working models of his engine. In 1893, the first model ran under its own power with 26% efficiency, remarkably more than double the efficiency of the steam engines of his day. Finally, in February of 1897, he ran the "first diesel engine suitable for practical use, which operated at an unbelievable efficiency of 75%.
Diesel demonstrated his engine at the Exhibition Fair in Paris, France in 1898. This engine stood as an example of Diesel's vision because it was fueled by peanut oil - the "original" biodiesel. He thought that the utilization of a biomass fuel was the real future of his engine. He hoped that it would provide a way for the smaller industries, farmers, and "commonfolk" a means of competing with the monopolizing industries, which controlled all energy production at that time, as well as serve as an alternative for the inefficient fuel consumption of the steam engine. As a result of Diesel's vision, compression ignited engines were powered by a biomass fuel, vegetable oil, until the 1920's
In the run-up to Bush's energy "policy" speech this week in the State of the Union address, take a moment to consider that, right now, we sell a kind of engine that with very little adjusting, we could mass convert to an alternative fuel that is cheap (as in free), easy to find in mass quantities, and whose use in an automobile engine would actually save more of the environment than it would destroy.
Bush will talk a lot of nonsense about biodiesel, and how he'd like to make ethanol (manufactured by ADM, "Supermarket to the World" and prime contributor to the Republican Party) a standard for gasoline additives.
Then remember a couple of things about ethanol: making it from corn is more expensive (and almost as dangerous to the environment as refining oil) than making it from soy beans from Brazil, or biomass refuse such as weeds and agricultural byproducts. Bush will propose making ethanol with the cellulose from sawgrass and other woody renewable plants as an alternative to the alternative, which would work, except that technology lies safely outside the confines of his presidential term limits and will cost billions to research, let alone implement.
Nope. The technology I'm talking about is here. Now. The fuel is here. Now. And you can retrofit your own gas engine car for....well, OK, that's not cheap, but a diesel engine could use this fuel almost immediately.
It's that left-over slop that McDonald's gives away: used cooking oils. Remember that bit at the top, about Rudolph Diesel? Go re-read it, because I'm pretty sure you skipped over the bit where he first demonstrated his Diesel engine using peanut oil.
Why? To quote: "He hoped that it would provide a way for the smaller industries, farmers, and "commonfolk" a means of competing with the monopolizing industries, which controlled all energy production at that time, as well as serve as an alternative for the inefficient fuel consumption of the steam engine."
Granted, the internal combustion engine of today is a lot more efficient than the steam engine he was competing with (which could only convert about 20% of its energy requirements into power), but now we're seeing a more important reason to utilize Diesel's engine and to use his original fuel source: political and economic.
Better, look at how it solves a waste management problem, in addition to cutting way back on greenhouse gases: how many gallons of used cooking oil each day must a McDonald's produce? I suppose it depends on how often they have to switch out the oil in the fry-cookers, of course, but would 50 gallons be an unreasonable figure? And since mileage is comparable to petroleum-based diesels, your fill-ups would be less frequent. Imagine a McDonald's where you AND your car can get gas at the same time!
Or you can make your own biodiesel. It's really pretty simple. All you need is a blender or a soda bottle, some lye (you can make lutefish when you're done) and some straight-grain alcohol.
You won't hear any of this during the State of the Union.
It's too sensible.