The diesel engine is an internal combustion engine, in which the energy of burning fuel is converted into energy to work the cylinder of the engine. In the diesel engine, air alone is compressed in the cylinder, raising its temperature significantly. After the air has been compressed, a charge of fuel is sprayed into the cylinder and ignition is accomplished by the heat of compression. The four piston strokes of the cycle occur in the following order: intake, compression, power and exhaust. See Figure 1.
During the intake stroke, the piston travels downward, the intake valves are open, and the exhaust valves are closed. The down stroke of the piston facilitates air from the intake manifold to enter the cylinder through the open intake valve. The turbocharger, by increasing the air pressure in the engine intake manifold, assures a full charge of air is available for the cylinder. The intake charge consists of air only with no fuel mixture.
At the end of the intake stroke, the intake valves close and the piston starts upward on the compression stroke. The exhaust valves remain closed. At the end of the compression stroke, the air in the combustion chamber has been compressed by the piston to occupy a space about one-fifteenth as great in volume as it occupied at the beginning of the stroke. Thus, the compression ratio is 15:1. Compressing the air into a small space causes the temperature of that air to rise. Near the end of the compression stroke, the pressure of the air above the piston is approximately 3445 to 4134 kPa (500 to 600 lb/in.2) and the temperature of that air is approximately 538°C (1000°F). During the last part of the compression stroke and the early part of the power stroke, a small metered charge of fuel is injected into the combustion chamber. Almost immediately after the fuel charge is injected into the combustion chamber, the fuel is ignited by the hot air and starts to burn, beginning the power stroke.
During the power stroke, the piston travels downward and all intake and exhaust valves are closed. As the fuel is added and burns, the gases get hotter, the pressure increases, pushing the piston downward and adding to crankshaft rotation.
During the exhaust stroke, the intake valves are closed; the exhaust valves are open, and the piston is on its up stroke. The burned gases are forced out of the combustion chamber through the open exhaust valve port by the upward travel of the piston. From the preceding description, it is apparent that the proper operation of the engine depends upon the two separate functions: first, compression for ignition, and second, that fuel be measured and injected into the compressed air in the cylinder in the proper quantity and at the proper time.