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Is hydrogen the future?

1 year ago

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David Twohig | Engineer


6 June 2023

The sound of an internal combustion engine firing up has to be one of the most evocative created by mankind. Whatever your taste in engines – from screaming two-stroke motorbike motors through big bluff American bent-eights to histrionic Italian V12s – the sound of them whirring, roaring or howling into life is indescribably special.

My personal favourite might be hearing the Shuttleworth Collection’s Spitfire Mk V being coaxed into life during one of that wonderful museum’s summer evening flying displays. Hearing its Merlin being started from cold, snorting and chuffing like an aggressive racehorse, then eventually roaring into an uneven cackling idle, shooting foot-long blue flames from its 12 open exhausts into the English dusk, was a sound for sore eardrums.

But who was the first person to hear an engine fire into life? Not Nicolaus Otto back in the 1870s, although his name lives on – the Otto cycle remains the standard thermodynamic process that underpins most of the engines we revere. Nor was it Etienne Lenoir 20 years earlier, but he was the first person to build commercially successful internal-combustion engines.

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