In 1893, German inventor Rudolph Diesel published a paper entitled "The Theory
and Construction of a Rational Heat Engine," which described an engine in which
air is compressed by a piston to a very high pressure, causing a high
temperature. Fuel is then injected and ignited by the compression temperature.
Diesel built his first engine based on that theory the same year and, though it
worked only sporadically, he patented it. Within a few years, Diesel's design
became the standard of the world for that type of engine and his name was
attached to it.
Diesel thought that the United States was the greatest potential market for his
engine. The first diesel built in the United States was made in 1898 by
Busch-Zulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Co. The president of that company was
Adolphus Busch, of Budweiser brewing fame, who had purchased North American
manufacturing rights. 1
Diesel's Humanitarian Vision:
Diesel originally thought that the diesel engine, (readily adaptable in
size and utilizing locally available fuels) would enable independent
craftsmen and artisans to endure the powered competition of large
industries that then virtually monopolized the predominant power source-the
oversized, expensive, fuel-wasting steam engine. During 1885 Diesel set up his
first shop-laboratory in Paris and began his 13-year ordeal of creating his
distinctive engine.. At Augsburg, on August 10, 1893, Diesel's prime model, a
single 10-foot iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power
for the first time. Diesel spent two more years at improvements and on the last
day of 1896 demonstrated another model with the spectacular, if theoretical,
mechanical efficiency of 75.6 percent, in contrast to the then-prevailing
efficiency of the steam engine of 10 percent or less. Although commercial
manufacture was delayed another year and even then begun at a snail's pace, by
1898 Diesel was a millionaire from franchise fees in great part international.
His engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles
and trucks, and marine craft, and soon after were used in applications including
mines, oil fields, factories, and transoceanic shipping.2
DuPont, Mellon, and Hearst:
Diesel expected that his engine would be powered by vegetable oils (including
hemp) and seed oils. At the 1900 World's Fair, Diesel ran his engines on peanut
oil. Later, George Schlichten invented a hemp 'decorticating' machine that stood
poised to revolutionize paper making. Henry Ford demonstrated that cars can be
made of, and run on, hemp. Evidence suggests a special-interest group that included the DuPont
petrochemical company, Secretary of the
Treasury Andrew Mellon (Dupont's major financial backer), and the newspaper man William Randolph Hearst mounted a
yellow journalism campaign against hemp. Hearst deliberately confused psychoactive
marijuana with industrial hemp, one of humankind's oldest and most useful resources.
DuPont and Hearst were heavily invested in timber and petroleum resources, and
saw hemp as a threat to their empires. Petroleum companies also knew that
petroleum emits noxious, toxic byproducts when incompletely burned, as in an auto
engine. Pollution was important to Diesel and he saw his engine as a solution to
the inefficient, highly polluting engines of his time. In 1937 DuPont, Mellen and
Hearst were able to push a "marijuana" prohibition bill through Congress in less
than three months, which destroyed the domestic hemp industry.
Diesel died under mysterious circumstances in 1913, vanishing during an overnight
crossing of the English Channel on the mail steamer Dresden from Antwerp to
Harwich. Diesel's death might have been suicide, accidental or an assassination. Proponents of the
assassination theory point out that shortly after Diesel's death, a
diesel-powered German submarine fleet became the scourge of the seas. Diesel had
been friendly to France, Britain and the United States. 1
What's To Come?
2000: Volkswagen was the only manufacturer to offer passenger cars with diesel engines in the U.S. The diesel car is dead in this country, killed by cheap gasoline. However, the diesel engine is being reconsidered by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The future CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards (40 miles per gallon +) could be met with highly efficient diesel engines as are currently built and marketed in Japan. Electric cars are another possible solution. Diesel powered vehicles have many advantages when compared to electric-vehicles. The development and implementation of biofuels in conjunction with small diesel engines could greatly reduce air pollution.