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internal-combustion engine

Introduction

internal-combustion engine, one in which combustion of the fuel takes place in a confined space, producing expanding gases that are used directly to provide mechanical power. Such engines are classified as reciprocating or rotary, spark ignition or compression ignition, and two-stroke or four-stroke; the most familiar combination, used from automobiles to lawn mowers, is the reciprocating, spark-ignited, four-stroke gasoline engine. Other types of internal-combustion engines include the reaction engine (see jet propulsion, rocket), and the gas turbine. Engines are rated by their maximum horsepower, which is usually reached a little below the speed at which undue mechanical stresses are developed.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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