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External combustion engine

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Title: External combustion engine  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Machine, Machine (mechanical), Outline of machines, Compression ratio, Combustion (disambiguation)
Collection: Engines, External Combustion Engines
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

External combustion engine

Model Stirling engine, with external heat from a spirit lamp (bottom right) applied to the outside of the glass displacer cylinder.
Newcomen's engine, a precursor of the steam engine, with the boiler heated from beneath
Sectioned steam locomotive. Although the fire is within an enclosed firebox, this is still an external combustion engine, as the exhaust gas and the steam working fluid are kept separate.

An external combustion engine (EC engine) is a heat engine where a working fluid, contained internally, is heated by combustion in an external source, through the engine wall or a heat exchanger. The fluid then, by expanding and acting on the mechanism of the engine, produces motion and usable work.[1] The fluid is then cooled, compressed and reused (closed cycle), or (less commonly) dumped, and cool fluid pulled in (open cycle air engine).


  • Combustion 1
  • Working fluid 2
    • Single phase 2.1
    • Dual phase 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


"Combustion" refers to burning fuel with an oxidizer, to supply the heat. Engines of similar (or even identical) configuration and operation may use a supply of heat from other sources such as nuclear, solar, geothermal or exothermic reactions not involving combustion; they are not then strictly classed as external combustion engines, but as external thermal engines.

Working fluid

The working fluid can be of any composition and the system may be single phase (liquid only or gas only) or dual phase (liquid/gas).

Single phase

Gas is used in a Stirling engine. Single-phase liquid may sometimes be used.

Dual phase

phases between liquid and gas.

See also


  1. ^ external combustion - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
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