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Wankel, Felix

engine motion rotary novel

[ vang kl] (1902–88) German engineer: the inventor of the Wankel rotary engine.

Two types of internal combustion engine have dominated road transport: they use either the cycle or the compression ignition system devised by . Both have the inherent defect of requiring the linear reciprocating motion of a piston to be converted into circular motion, with resultant stress and limitations.

Wankel was born in the Black Forest, the son of a ranger. He never attended university, but he showed skill in engineering mathematics and an obsessive interest in vehicle propulsion; however his work on a novel engine was delayed by employment in aircraft development before the Second World War and later by being a prisoner of the French.

From 1929 he had in mind a novel engine using hydrocarbon fuel, and eventually made a prototype in the 1960s. The Wankel rotary engine has an approximately triangular central rotor, geared to a driving shaft and turning in a close-fitting oval-shaped chamber so that the power stroke is applied to the three faces of the rotor in turn as they pass a single spark plug. The engine is valveless. The German car maker NSU used the engine in its RO 80 luxury saloon in the 1960s, but it showed problems of high fuel consumption and exhaust pollution; Mazda used it in sports cars in the 1980s, as have high performance motor-cycle makers. Wider use of the Wankel engine is clearly possible if the above problems are fully solved; it remains the most radical innovation in its field since the familiar reciprocating internal combustion engine was developed in the 19th-c.

[back] Wang, Vera - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Vera Wang

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