Conventional Engine History
Everything rotates in cycles. This is the view you could reach if you look at the basic principles of nature, because many things that shape our environment and our lives happen in cycles: From the movement of the planets through to the tiniest processes at atomic level – rotating or cycling appears to be the most logical of all movements. What is probably the most significant invention in human history, the wheel, was the first technical implementation to be based on this discovery.
When the gunpowder engine was invented by Christian Huygens in 1673, the search began for a driving force to drive the wheel continuously without the use of any muscle power. The result of the work is what is the reciprocating piston engine as we know it today – a linear force, converted into a rotating motion. James Watt only managed to solve this in 1786 by using a crank and connecting rod, but even back then, he was aware of the deficiency of this technical detour. He was already coming up with plans for rotary engines, but ultimately they failed due to leaks.
Since, the reciprocating piston engine has been retained, along with its drawbacks. It was not just the translation of linear to circular motion that was complicated; the ever more elaborate gas control of these engines has resulted in huge amounts of research and development in the two centuries following its invention.
Alongside the development of the reciprocating piston engine, there was never any shortage of ideas enabling a piston of whatever shape to complete work during a rotating cycle. The majority failed, because there was an even greater problem to overcome; ensuring the sliding seal between the moving bodies and the inner boundaries of the engine.