Diesel Fuel and the Diesel Engine

The history of diesel fuel

Developed in the 1890s by inventor Rudolph Diesel, the diesel engine has become the leading choice worldwide for power, reliability, and high fuel economy. Besides that, early experimenters on vegetable oil fuels included the French government and Dr. Diesel himself.

Dr. Diesel envisioned that pure vegetable oils could power diesel engines. Modern biodiesel fuel, which is made by converting vegetable oils into compounds called fatty acid methyl esters.  This would help with agriculture in remote areas of the world, where petroleum was not available at the time. This research has its roots in 1930s Belgium but was not established in Europe until the late 1980s.

In the late 1800s, there was a desire to improve upon inefficient and dangerous steam engines.  Above all, this desire led to the development of the diesel engine. The diesel engine works on the principle of compression ignition. The fuel injectors force the fuel into the engine’s cylinder after compressing the air out. As the fuel enters the cylinder, it self-ignites and burns rapidly.  As a result, this forcing the piston back down and converting the chemical energy in the fuel into mechanical energy. Most noteworthy, Dr. Diesel holds the first patent for the compression ignition engine, issued in 1893. Diesel became known worldwide for his innovative engine which could use a variety of fuels.

Early Work

The early diesel engines had complex injection systems. Therefore, the design intent was to have the engine run on many different fuels, from kerosene to coal dust. In addition, someone recognized that, because of their high energy content, vegetable oils would make excellent fuel. The first public demonstration of vegetable oil-based diesel fuel was at the 1900 World’s Fair when the French government commissioned the Otto company to build a diesel engine to run on peanut oil. The French government was interested in vegetable oils as a domestic fuel for their African colonies.

Rudolph Diesel later did extensive work on vegetable oil fuels and became a leading proponent of such a concept, believing that farmers could benefit from providing their fuel. However, it would take almost a century before such an idea became a popular reality. Shortly after Dr. Diesel’s death in 1913 petroleum became widely available in a variety of forms, including the class of fuel we know today as “diesel fuel.”

The mechanics at Britton’s in Lake Havasu City know how to repair and maintain your diesel car or truck.  Call to make an appointment. (928) 505-3535

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