This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rudolph Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine. Diesel was born on 18 March 1858 the son of German parents, in Paris. He studied at the Munich Polytechnic under Professor Carl von Linde.
On February 28, 1893 he was awarded a patent for an “internal combustion engine” by the Imperial Patents Office in Berlin. He wanted to find alternatives to the steam engine, which needed a lot of maintenance and only worked with efficiency of ten per cent at the most.
However, he struggled to find partners to support the venture. Finally, he managed to convince the president of Maschinenfabrik Augsburg, Heinrich von Buz, of his plans. Maschinenfabrik Augsburg – a forerunner of MAN – and the Friedrich Krupp company made the necessary resources available.
After initial difficulties a first measurement of power was performed in June 1895 – but the efficiency of only 16.6 per cent was disappointing. It was not until February 1897 that Diesel’s invention worked satisfactorily for the first time, managing 18 horsepower and an efficiency of 26.2 per cent.
Compared to the petrol engine, the diesel was more robust because it consisted of fewer parts; it was able to burn heavy oil, which was cheaper than gasoline; and its efficiency was superior.