Ever wonder how a Wankel rotary engine works? Matt Keveney’s excellent animated engines site does more than just show you a little diagram. You get a lovely, instructive animation. Actually, a Wankel rotary is pretty straightforward to understand. It’s just got that marvelously rude name going for it.
It’s more fun to look at some of the less well-known historical engines. For example, here is the very first steam engine, which spawned the industrial revolution and launched a thousand dark satanic mills.
Also of historical interest is the unusual Gnome rotary engine, which was used in World War I planes like the Sopwith Camel. The entire engine spun around, fixed directly to the propeller shaft. Spinning the engine gave it lightweight air cooling, but there was no throttling (besides “on”), and the wicked gyroscopic torque killed more than a few pilots.
Other engines are more newsworthy. Look at the small, lightweight two-stroke engine and you can see why it’s unpopular with environmentalists: it’s particularly easy for unburned fuel, which is a nasty pollutant, to blow straight out the exhaust. And finally, the lovely and super-efficient Stirling engine that may save us all some day. It’s so efficient, in fact, that you can buy one that will run forever using only the heat of your hand.
To give you an idea of the sort person who would make a site like this, note that he also has an entire portion of his website dedicated to instructing people in the art of hand-carving propellers. The world needs more people like Matt.