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An internal combustion engine (ICE or IC engine) is a heat engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion applies direct force to some component of the engine. The force is typically applied to pistons (piston engine), turbine blades (gas turbine), a rotor (Wankel engine), or a nozzle (jet engine). This force moves the component over a distance, transforming chemical energy into kinetic energy which is used to propel, move or power whatever the engine is attached to.
The first commercially successful internal combustion engine was created by Étienne Lenoir around 1860, and the first modern internal combustion engine, known as the Otto engine, was created in 1876 by Nicolaus Otto. The term internal combustion engine usually refers to an engine in which combustion is intermittent, such as the more familiar two-stroke and four-stroke piston engines, along with variants, such as the six-stroke piston engine and the Wankel rotary engine. A second class of internal combustion engines use continuous combustion: gas turbines, jet engines and most rocket engines, each of which are internal combustion engines on the same principle as previously described. Firearms are also a form of internal combustion engine, though of a type so specialized that they are commonly treated as a separate category, along with weaponry such as mortars and anti-aircraft cannons. In contrast, in external combustion engines, such as steam or Stirling engines, energy is delivered to a working fluid not consisting of, mixed with, or contaminated by combustion products. Working fluids for external combustion engines include air, hot water, pressurized water or even boiler-heated liquid sodium.
While there are many stationary applications, most ICEs are used in mobile applications and are the primary power supply for vehicles such as cars, aircraft and boats. ICEs are typically powered by hydrocarbon-based fuels like natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, or ethanol. Renewable fuels like biodiesel are used in compression ignition (CI) engines and bioethanol or ETBE (ethyl tert-butyl ether) produced from bioethanol in spark ignition (SI) engines. As early as 1900 the inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel, was using peanut oil to run his engines. Renewable fuels are commonly blended with fossil fuels. Hydrogen, which is rarely used, can be obtained from either fossil fuels or renewable energy.