Points and Coil Ignition
Internal combustion engines require ignition of the mixture, either by spark ignition (SI) or compression ignition (CI). Before the invention of reliable electrical methods, hot tube and flame methods were used. Experimental engines with laser ignition have been built.15
Spark Ignition Process
Points and Coil Ignition
The spark ignition engine was a refinement of the early engines which used Hot Tube ignition. When Bosch developed the magneto it became the primary system for producing electricity to energize a spark plug.16 Many small engines still use magneto ignition. Small engines are started by hand cranking using a recoil starter or hand crank . Prior to Charles F. Kettering of Delco's development of the automotive starter all gasoline engined automobiles used a hand crank.17
Larger engines typically power their starting motors and Ignition systems using using the electrical energy stored in a lead?acid battery. The battery's charged state is maintained by an automotive alternator or (previously) a generator which uses engine power to create electrical energy storage.
The battery supplies electrical power for starting when the engine has a starting motor system, and supplies electrical power when the engine is off. The battery also supplies electrical power during rare run conditions where the alternator cannot maintain more than 13.8 volts (for a common 12V automotive electrical system). As alternator voltage falls below 13.8 volts, the lead-acid storage battery increasingly picks up electrical load. During virtually all running conditions, including normal idle conditions, the alternator supplies primary electrical power.
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Gasoline engines take in a mixture
Some systems disable alternator field (rotor) power during wide open throttle conditions. Disabling the field reduces alternator pulley mechanical loading to nearly zero, maximizing crankshaft power. In this case the battery supplies all primary electrical power.
Gasoline engines take in a mixture of air and gasoline and compress it by the movement of the piston from bottom dead center to top dead center when the fuel is at maximum compression. The reduction in the size of the swept area of the cylinder and taking into account the volume of the combustion chamber is described by a ratio. Early engines had compression ratios of 6 to 1. As compression ratios were increased the efficiency of the engine increased as well.
With early induction and ignition systems the compression ratios had to be kept low. With advances in fuel technology and combustion management high performance engines can run reliably at 12:1 ratio. With low octane fuel a problem would occur as the compression ratio increased as the fuel was igniting due to the rise in temperature that resulted. Charles Kettering developed a lead additive which allowed higher compression ratios.
The fuel mixture is ignited at difference progressions of the piston in the cylinder. At low rpm the spark is timed to occur close to the piston achieving top dead center. In order to produce more power, as rpm rises the spark is advanced sooner during piston movement. The spark occurs while the fuel is still being compressed progressively more as rpm rises.18