Four Stroke Diesel Engine

Diesel Cycle – Diesel Engine

In the 1890s, a German inventor, Rudolf Diesel has patented his invention of an efficient, slow burning, compression ignition, internal combustion engine. The original cycle proposed by Rudolf Diesel was a constant temperature cycle. In later years Diesel realized his original cycle would not work and he adopted the constant pressure cycle, which is known as the Diesel cycle.

Diesel cycle is one of most common thermodynamic cycles that can be found in automobile engines and describes the functioning of a typical compression ignition piston engine. The Diesel engine is similar in operation to the gasoline engine. The most important difference is that:

  • There is no fuel in the cylinder at the beginning of the compression stroke, therefore an autoignition does not occur in Diesel engines.
  • Diesel engine uses compression ignition instead of spark ignition.
  • Because of the high temperature developed during the adiabatic compression, the fuel ignites spontaneously as it is injected. Therefore no spark plugs are needed.
  • Before the beginning of the power stroke, the injectors start to inject fuel directly into the combustion chamber and therefore first part of power stroke occurs approximately at the constant pressure.
  • Higher compression ratios can be achieved in Diesel engines, than in Otto engines
The Diesel engine is similar in operation to the gasoline engine. In this picture, there is an Otto engine, which is ignited by a spark plug instead of compression itself.
Four stroke engine - Otto engine
Four stroke engine – Otto engine
Source:, Own work of Zephyris, CC BY-SA 3.0
In contrast to Otto cycle, the Diesel cycle does not execute isochoric heat addition. In an ideal Diesel cycle, the system executing the cycle undergoes a series of four processes: two isentropic (reversible adiabatic) processes alternated with one isochoric process and one isobaric process.

Since Carnot’s principle states that no engine can be more efficient than a reversible engine (a Carnot heat engine) operating between the same high temperature and low temperature reservoirs, the Diesel engine must have lower efficiency than the Carnot efficiency. A typical diesel automotive engine operates at around 30% to 35% of thermal efficiency. About 65-70% is rejected as waste heat without being converted into useful work, i.e. work delivered to wheels. In general, engines using the Diesel cycle are usually more efficient, than engines using the Otto cycle. The diesel engine has the highest thermal efficiency of any practical combustion engine. Low-speed diesel engines (as used in ships) can have a thermal efficiency that exceeds 50%. The largest diesel engine in the world peaks at 51.7%.

Four Stroke Diesel Engine

Diesel engines may be designed as either two stroke or four stroke cycles.The four stroke Diesel engine is an internal combustion (IC) engine in which the piston completes four separate strokes while turning a crankshaft. A stroke refers to the full travel of the piston along the cylinder, in either direction. Therefore each stroke does not correspond to single thermodynamic process given in chapter Diesel Cycle – Processes.

The four stroke engine comprises:

  • the intake stroke – The piston moves from top dead center (TDC) to bottom dead center (BDC) and the cycle passes points 0 → 1. In this stroke the intake valve is open while the piston pulls air (without a fuel) into the cylinder by producing vacuum pressure into the cylinder through its downward motion.
  • the compression stroke – The piston moves from bottom dead center (BDC) to top dead center (TDC) and the cycle passes points 1 → 2 . In this stroke both the intake and exhaust valves are closed, resulting in adiabatic air compression (i.e. without heat transfer to or from the environment). During this compression, the volume is reduced, the pressure and temperature both rise. At the end of this stroke fuel is injected and burns in the compressed hot air. At the end of this stroke the crankshaft has completed a full 360 degree revolution.
  • the power stroke – The piston moves from top dead center (TDC) to bottom dead center (BDC) and the cycle passes points 2 → 3 → 4. In this stroke both the intake and exhaust valves are closed. At the beginning of the power stroke, a near isobaric combustion occur between 2 and 3. In this interval the pressure remains constant since the piston descends, and the volume increases. At 3 fuel injection and combustion are complete, and the cylinder contains gas at a higher temperature than at 2. Between 3 and 4 this hot gas expands, again approximately adiabatically. In this stroke the piston is driven towards the crankshaft, the volume in increased, and the work is done by the gas on the piston.
  • the exhaust stroke. The piston moves from bottom dead center (BDC) to top dead center (TDC) and the cycle passes points 4 → 1 → 0. In this stroke the exhaust valve is open while the piston pulls an exhaust gases out of the chamber. At the end of this stroke the crankshaft has completed a second full 360 degree revolution.

Note that: In an ideal case, the adiabatic expansion should continue, until the pressure falls to that of the surrounding air. This would increase the thermal efficiency of such engine, but this also causes the practical difficulties with the engine. Simply the engine would have to be much larger.

Examples of Compression Ratios – Gasoline vs. Diesel

  • The compression ratio in a gasoline-powered engine will usually not be much higher than 10:1 due to potential engine knocking (autoignition) and not lower than 6:1.
  • A turbocharged Subaru Impreza WRX has a compression ratio of 8.0:1. In general, a turbocharged or supercharged engines already have compressed air at air intake, therefore they are usually built with lower compression ratio.
  • A stock Honda S2000 engine (F22C1) has a compression ratio of 11.1:1.
  • Some atmospheric sportscar engines can have compression ratio up to 12.5 : 1 (e.g. Ferrari 458 Italia).
  • In 2012, Mazda released new petrol engines under the brand name SkyActiv with a 14:1 compression ratio. To reduce the risk of engine knocking, residual gas is reduced by using 4-2-1 engine exhaust systems, implementing a piston cavity, and optimizing fuel injection.
  • The Diesel engines have the compression ratio that normally exceed 14:1 and ratios over 22:1 are also common.
Nuclear and Reactor Physics:
  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
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  8. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
  9. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.

Advanced Reactor Physics:

  1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
  2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
  3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2. 
  4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

Other References:

Diesel Engine – Car Recycling

See above:

Diesel Cycle