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Eleven Uses for Diesel Engines

Posted by Mark Houlahan on

When Rudolph Diesel invented the diesel engine, could he have known how much they would change the world?

Diesel engines were a revolutionary invention for their time. They compress the air, which increases the air temperature to such a high degree that the fuel injected into the combustion chamber ignites spontaneously. They run more efficiently than naturally-aspirated engines.

Although the designing of the diesel engine got off to a rocky start, multiple engineers worked to create a prototype that was finally successful. The first commercial diesel engine was installed in March of 1898 in the Kempten plant of the Vereinigte Zündholzfabriken A.G. Within three years, MAN (a commercial vehicle and diesel engine manufacturer based out of Munich, Germany) produced 77 commercial-use diesel engine cylinders.

Today diesel engines can be found in many different places. Here are 11 different ways diesel engines are currently utilized.

1. Ships. Diesel-powered ships, first introduced in 1903, were initially created to fit both canal and river operations. Later, ocean-going ships were equipped with diesel engines, too. Today diesel engines can be found on commercial ships and small boats. Large ships use efficient, low-speed two-stroke diesel engines, while small boats can be powered by a diesel engine that could fit a truck.

2. Submarines. The US Navy submarines use diesel engines. Submarine diesel engine development advanced quickly during World War 1, when double-acting piston two-stroke engines with up to 12,200 PS were created for marine use.

3. Trucks. Although they might be the first thing you think of when you hear a“diesel engine,” trucks are just one of the many uses of diesel engines. The first truck with a diesel engine made its appearance in 1908, but it took 15 more years for trucks with diesel engines to be built with a pre-combustion chamber injected diesel engine. Today, the most efficient diesel engines in large trucks can reach 45% efficiency.

4. Trains. Diesel engines were used to power locomotives carrying cargo and then were added to passenger trains for a diesel-electric combo in 1934. All non-electrified railroads in the world use diesel-powered locomotives.

5. Tractors. The first agricultural application of the diesel engine was a tractor produced in 1923. It wasn’t until 1925, however, that diesel-powered agricultural tractors began to be mass-produced and manufactured.

6. Passenger cars. Before the 1980s, diesel engines could be found in some larger passenger cars since their size could be hidden in the design. As the diesel engine design has evolved and become more compact, it has since been added to more small vehicles. Currently, one-fifth of all passenger cars worldwide are powered by diesel engines.

7. Aviation. The LZ 129 Hindenburg was powered by four diesel engines in 1936, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that diesel engines were starting to be developed more specifically for aircraft. The designs for diesel engine-powered aircraft are still being worked on today.

8. Commercial vehicles. Rudolph Diesel’s initial inspiration for creating the diesel engine was to use it to more efficiently power wagons or lorries. Today, diesel engines are found on many commercial trucks, and they are both reliable and fuel-efficient.

9. Construction equipment. Diesel-powered pieces of construction equipment are equipped with non-road diesel engines, where reliability, fuel efficiency, and ease of maintenance are more important than a quiet operation. Consequently, air-cooling and mechanically controlled diesel fuel injection are very common in non-road diesel engines.

10. Electricity generation. Stationary diesel engines are commonly used for electricity generation. These engines typically run either permanently with a mostly partial load, or intermittently, with a full load.

11. Refrigerator compressors. Stationary diesel engines are also used to power refrigerator compressors (as well as other types of pumps or compressors).

While Rudolph Diesel knew he was onto something important when he was designing the diesel engine, he probably didn’t realize the magnitude of the impact diesel engines would have on the world. Diesel engines are still being tweaked and developed for better efficiency; this list could be much longer in the future if advancements on diesel engines continue to be made.

For whatever type of diesel engine you have in your life, at Goldfarb and Associates, Inc. we have the parts you need to keep it running smoothly. Check out our online inventory for new and remanufactured diesel engines and parts, or give us a visit at our warehouse in Rockville, MD. Our helpful staff would be happy to assist you in finding the correct diesel engine parts you need.


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