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This day in tech: First run of a Wankel Engine prototype - Feb 1, 1957
The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine which uses a rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion instead of using reciprocating pistons. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that is similar in shape to a Reuleaux triangle but with sides that are somewhat flatter. This design delivers smooth high-rpm power from a compact size. It is the only internal combustion engine invented in the twentieth century to go into production. Since its introduction the engine has been commonly referred to as the rotary engine, though this name is also applied to several completely different designs.
The engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel. He received his first patent for the engine in 1929, began development in the early 1950s at NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU), and completed a working prototype in 1957. NSU then licensed the concept to companies around the world, which have continued to improve the design.
Because of their compact design, Wankel rotary engines have been installed in a variety of vehicles and devices such as automobiles (including racing cars), along with aircraft, go-karts, personal water craft, chain saws, and auxiliary power units. The most extensive automotive use of the Wankel engine has been by the Japanese company Mazda.
First DKM Wankel Engine DKM 54 (Drehkolbenmotor), at the Deutsches Museum in Bonn, Germany:
The Wankel cycle. The "A" marks one of the three apexes of the rotor. The "B" marks the eccentric shaft and the white portion is the lobe of the eccentric shaft. The shaft turns three times for each rotation of the rotor around the lobe and once for each orbital revolution around the eccentric shaft.
The Wankel Engine at work:
The Mazda RX-8, a sports car powered by a Wankel engine:
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