In honor of Rudolph Diesel’s birthday on March 18, 1858, today is National Biodiesel Day! As you might know, the inventor of the diesel engine advocated for the use of vegetable oil (in particular peanut oil) to power his fuel-efficient invention. Today, biodiesel is the manifestation of Diesel’s vision, as it provides a clean source of renewable energy for the world.
The National Biodiesel Board posted this information about Diesel on its web site:
He attempted to find better ways to use steam as the working fluid in heat engines. His patents in 1892 and 1893 were not for the engine but for the cycle of an engine employing the compression-ignition technique. In this cycle there were four phases. He did not have one fully rolling until 1897. Diesel attacked the problem of the compression-ignition engine not as a new concept but as a refinement of the petrol engine inventd by Nikolaus Otto in 1876. He spent the rest of his life introducing his invention to the world. He had many problems with manufacturing, licensing and financial stability. On Sept. 29, 1913, Diesel vanished off the Harwich-Antwerp ferry crossing the channel to England and his body was never found. Since his death the diesel engine has been very helpful in manufacturing and transportation.
He originally designed the diesel engine to run on peanut oil. Only later did petroleum become the standard. In a 1912 speech, Diesel said “the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.”