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THE THERMIC MOTOR OF THE FUTURE?by@scientificamerican
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THE THERMIC MOTOR OF THE FUTURE?

by Scientific American November 15th, 2023
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Up to recent years there was no reason for putting the question that forms the title of this article, for it was admitted by all that the conversion of thermic energy, or heat produced by the combustion of coal, into mechanical energy or work could no longer be effected economically except by having recourse to steam. In ordinary language, and even to manufacturers, steam engine was the equivalent of thermic motor, and it would not have occurred to any one to use anything else but steam to effect the transformation. The progress that has been made during the last twenty years in the thermatic study and construction of gas motors (without speaking of hot air motors) has shown that the use of steam is not absolutely indispensable for the production of work, and it has demonstrated that, as regards dynamic product, the gas motor preserves the advantage, although the relatively high price of the illuminating gas employed in the production of the motive power generally renders the use of this combustible more costly than steam, especially for high powers. The economic truth of twenty years ago, when gas motors absorbed 1,500 liters per horse hour and exceeded with difficulty an effective power of from 8 to 10 horses, has become less and less certain, when the consumption has successively descended to 1,200, 1,000, 800 and even to 600 liters of gas per horse hour, the power of the motors rising gradually to 25, 50 and 100 horses with a motor having a single cylinder of a diameter of 57 centimeters.
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Scientific American Supplement, No. 799, April 25, 1891 by Various, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE THERMIC MOTOR OF THE FUTURE?

THE THERMIC MOTOR OF THE FUTURE?

Up to recent years there was no reason for putting the question that forms the title of this article, for it was admitted by all that the conversion of thermic energy, or heat produced by the combustion of coal, into mechanical energy or work could no longer be effected economically except by having recourse to steam. In ordinary language, and even to manufacturers, steam engine was the equivalent of thermic motor, and it would not have occurred to any one to use anything else but steam to effect the transformation.


The progress that has been made during the last twenty years in the thermatic study and construction of gas motors (without speaking of hot air motors) has shown that the use of steam is not absolutely indispensable for the production of work, and it has demonstrated that, as regards dynamic product, the gas motor preserves the advantage, although the relatively high price of the illuminating gas employed in the production of the motive power generally renders the use of this combustible more costly than steam, especially for high powers.


The economic truth of twenty years ago, when gas motors absorbed 1,500 liters per horse hour and exceeded with difficulty an effective power of from 8 to 10 horses, has become less and less certain, when the consumption has successively descended to 1,200, 1,000, 800 and even to 600 liters of gas per horse hour, the power of the motors rising gradually to 25, 50 and 100 horses with a motor having a single cylinder of a diameter of 57 centimeters.


FIG. 1.—CORLISS ENGINE AND BOILER OF 100INDICATED H.P.—ELEVATION AND PLAN.


A, cylinder; B, condenser; C, boiler; R, feed water heater; D, chimney.


But these results did not suffice, and it was desired to do better still by dispensing with the use of high priced illuminating gas. An endeavor was made to obviate the difficulty by manufacturing a special gas for the motive power, as steam is produced for the same object, by distilling coal, carbureting air, producing water gas by the Dowson process, and by other equivalent processes.


The strides made in this direction were finally crowned with success, and the results obtained in the recent experiments due to Mr. Aimé Witz, an undoubted authority in the matter, permit of affirming that now and hereafter, in many circumstances, a gas generator supplying a gas motor will be able to advantageously dethrone a steam boiler supplying a steam engine of the same power.


These conclusions, which tend to nothing less than to limit the reign of the steam engine, are confirmed on the one hand by an experiment carried on for the last two years in the Barataud flour mill of Marseilles, where a 50 h.p. "Simplex" motor has been running day and night for several months without stopping, and consuming but about 500 grammes of English anthracite per effective horse hour, and, on another hand, by some personal experiments of Mr. Witz's, to which we shall shortly advert, and whence there results a sensibly equivalent production for a motor of 100 indicated h.p., corresponding to a power of 75 effective horses.


Before establishing, with Mr. Witz, a comparison of the two systems in pressure, steam or gas, let us state in a few words in what the latter consists, the steam engine and the boiler that supplies it being so well known that no description is necessary.


The Dowson gas generator does not differ essentially from the numerous generators devised during recent years for the manufacture of gaseous combustibles, the use of which is so often convenient. The motor that it supplies is the most powerful single cylinder one that has hitherto been constructed. It is of 100 indicated h.p., and its normal angular velocity is 100 revolutions per minute. On trial it has yielded 112 indicated h.p., and 76.8 effective h.p., corresponding to an organic rendering of 69 per cent. This motor, elaborated by Messrs. Delamare-Bouteville & Malandin, of Rouen, operates by compression and in four periods, according to the Beau de Rochas cycle. We give the aspect of it in Fig. 3. In the first period the mixture of air and gas is sucked in, in the second it is compressed, in the third it is ignited, and in the fourth the products of combustion are expelled.


FIG. 2.—SIMPLEX MOTOR, DOWSON GENERATOR OF100 INDICATED H.P.—ELEVATION AND PLAN.


A, cylinder; B, gas conduit; C, rubber pockets; D. gasometer;
E, purifier; F, scrubber; G, hydraulic main; H, cooling pipe;
I steam injector; K, steam boiler and superheater; L, gas
generator; M, charger; N, discharge of the motor.


Ignition is effected electrically by a series of sparks playing between two platinum points in the slide valve, and this permits of regulating the instant of ignition through the edges of the orifices. The angular velocity is regulated by a Watt's governor, which secures an isochronism of the motion independently of the charge.


The setting in motion of so powerful an engine is effected very easily by means of an arrangement that permits of introducing into the cylinder, while the piston is in the center of the stroke, a mixture of air and gas whose pressure is sufficient at the arrival to expel the inert products. After this the ignition takes place, and the explosion is sufficient to set the motor in motion.


The trials made by Mr. Witz with the motor represented in Fig. 3 gave the following results, deduced from an experiment of 68 hours. The figures relate to one effective horse power, measured with the brake upon the shaft of the motor.


  Consumption of anthracite.              516 grammes.
       "       " coke.                     96    "
  Consumption of water for the injection
    of steam.                               0.487 liters.
  Consumption of water for cooling
    the cylinder.                          50.0     "
  Consumption of oil for lubricating
    the cylinder.                           3.74 grammes.
  Consumption of grease.                    0.45    "
  Consumption of gas reduced to
    0° C. and to 760 mm.                2,370    liters.


This last figure will appear very high, but the fact must not be lost sight of that it is a question of poor gas, the net cost of which varies between one and two centimes per cubic meter, and the calorific power of which is but 1,487 heat units per cubic meter of constant volume, and supposing the steam condensed. This combustion of 612 grammes of combustible per effective horse hour is remarkable, and fully shows what may be expected of the gas motor supplied by a gas generator in putting to profit certain improvements that will hereafter be possible, such, for example, as the lightening of the movable parts of the motor, the bettering of its organic rendering (now quite feeble), the use of better oils, the reduction of the consumption of water, the superheating of the steam injected into the gas generator, etc.


A well constructed steam engine, carefully kept in repair and as much improved as it is possible to make it, would certainly consume twice as much coal to produce the same quantity of effective work, say at least 1,200 grammes per horse hour. But, as has been objected with reason, it does not suffice to compare the figures as to the consumption of fuel in order to institute a serious comparison between the steam engine and the motor using poor gas.


The gas generator requires the use of English anthracite, while a steam boiler is heated with any kind of coal. The prices of unity of weight are therefore very different. Moreover, the gas motor necessitates an immense amount of water for the washing of the gas and the cooling of the cylinder, through circulation in the jacket. It is well to keep this fact in view. On another hand, the lubrification of the cylinders requires a profusion of oil whose flashing point must be at a very high temperature, else it would burn at every explosion and fill the cylinder with coom. Such oil is very costly.


Does not the expenditure of oil in large motors largely offset the saving in coal? And then, gas motors are sold at high prices, as are gas generators, and this installation necessarily requires the addition of a large gasometer, scrubbers, etc. The wear of these apparatus is rapid, and if we take into account the interest and amortization of the capital engaged, we shall find that the use of steam is still more economical. The obstruction caused by bulky apparatus is another inconvenience, upon which it is unnecessary to dwell. In a word, the question is a very complex one. We look at but one side of it in occupying ourselves only with the coal consumed, and we shall certainly expose those who allowed themselves to be influenced by the seductive figures of consumption to bitter disappointment.


To answer such objections Mr. Aimé Witz has established a complete parallel between the two systems, in which he looks at the question from a theoretical and practical and scientific and financial point of view. Considered as a transformation apparatus, a steam motor burning good Cardiff coal in a Galloway boiler with feed water heaters will consume (with a good condensing engine utilizing an expansion of a sixth) from 1,100 to 1,250 grammes of coal per effective horse hour, which corresponds to a rough coefficient of utilization of 9.7 per cent. A gas generator supplying a gas motor burning Swansea anthracite and Noeux coke, medium quality, will consume 516 grammes of anthracite and 90 of coke to produce 2,370 liters of gas giving 1,487 heat units per cubic meter. Of the 3,524 heat units furnished to the motor by the 2,370 liters of gas, the motor will convert 18 per cent. into disposable mechanical work.


With the boiler, the gross rendering of the whole is 7 per cent. With the gas generator it reaches 12.7 per cent. From a theoretical point of view the advantage therefore rests with the gas generator and gas motor. In order to compare the net cost of the units of work, from an industrial point of view, it is necessary to form estimates of installation, costs of keeping in repair, interest and amortization.


Figs. 1 and 2 represent, on the same scale, the installations necessary in each of these systems. The legends indicate the names of the different apparatus in each installation. The following table shows that, as regards the surface occupied, the advantage is again with the gas generator and gas motor:


                     Steam Engine.      Gas Motor.
  Surface covered.       85 sq. m.       72 sq. m.
  Surface exposed.       33    "         43    "
                        ---             ---
  Total surface.        118    "        115    "


The estimates of installation formed by Mr. Witz set forth the expense relative to the capital engaged exactly at the same figure of 32,000 francs for a motive power of 75 effective horses. The expenses of keeping in repair, interest, etc., summed up, show that the cost per day of 10 hours is 47.9 francs for the steam engine and 39.6 for the gas motor, say a saving of 8.3 francs per day, or about 2,500 francs for a year of 300 days' work.


The gas motor, therefore, effects a great saving, while at the same time occupying less space, consuming less water and operating just as well.


With Mr. Witz we cheerfully admit all the advantages that he so clearly establishes with his perfect competency in such matters, but there still remain two points upon which we wish to be enlightened. Are not the starting up, the operation and the keeping in repair of a gas generator actually more complicated and more delicate than the same elements of a steam engine? Does not the poor gas manufactured in a gas generator present, from a hygienic point of view, danger sufficiently great to proscribe the use of such apparatus in many circumstances?


Such are the points upon which we should like to be enlightened before unreservedly sharing Mr. Witz's enthusiasm, which, however, is justified, economically speaking, by the magnificent results of the experiments made by the learned engineer.—La Nature.


FIG. 3.—GAS MOTOR OF 100 INDICATED HORSE POWER.




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This book is part of the public domain. Various (2004). Scientific American Supplement, No. 799, April 25, 1891. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11649/pg11649-images.html


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