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Car and absence of oxygen





codersfriend
They say that a car "breathes" air for it's engine. If oxygen is absent, will the car start?
SonLight
No, the car will definitely not start without oxygen. The gasoline engine runs off the heat generated by burning the gasoline, or in other words by _oxidizing_ the gasoline. The primary inputs are hydrogen and carbon from the hydrocarbons in gasoline, and the primary outputs are carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). No oxygen, no burning, no heat released, and the engine will not run.

By the way, the human (or any animal) body can't function without oxygen for basically the same reasons. We oxidize food in a slow controlled way, and capture the energy with special chemical reactions.
Ankhanu
SonLight wrote:
The gasoline engine runs off the heat generated by burning the gasoline,

While the rest is right, it's the pressure generated by burning the gasoline that causes the engine to run, the heat is a byproduct.
SonLight
OK, clearly pressure is the immediate force which is turned into rotary motion by pistons and connecting rods. I would have considered the heat as the prime mover in both the steam engine and the internal combustion engine: oxidation produces heat, heat produces pressure, pressure produces piston motion, which is transformed into rotary motion. It may be a matter of terminology choice only. At the end, heat is the primary energy form which is left over and goes into the exhaust.

I once thought of writing an article about boating on Jupiter or one of its moons, where the atmosphere is mostly methane. There, one would have to carry a tank of oxygen which I would regard as "fuel", and the portion of the "air" which enabled combustion would be the methane. I suppose you would have to be careful about the terminology to be scientifically accurate, but from the point of view of the boater the two components of combustion would be reversed.
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