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Environmental Issues

The use of combustion as a power source has had such a dramatic influence on human society that the period after 1750 has sometimes been called the Fossil Fuel Age. Still, the widespread use of combustion for human applications has always had its disadvantages. Pictorial representations of England during the Industrial Revolution, for example, usually include huge clouds of smoke emitted by the combustion of wood and coal in steam engines.

Today, modern societies continue to face environmental problems created by the prodigious combustion of carbon-based fuels. For example, one product of any combustion reaction in the real world is carbon monoxide, a toxic gas that is often detected at dangerous levels in urban areas around the world. Oxides of sulfur, produced by the combustion of impurities in fuels, and oxides of nitrogen, produced at high temperature, also have deleterious effects, often in the form of acid rain and smog. Even carbon dioxide itself, the primary product of combustion, is suspected of causing global climate changes because of the enormous concentrations it has reached in the atmosphere.



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Joesten, Melvin D., et al. World of Chemistry. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1991.

Olah, George A., ed. Chemistry of Energetic Materials. San Diego: Academic Press, 1991.

Snyder, C.H. The Extraordinary Chemistry of Ordinary Things. 4th ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2002.


Rutland, Christopher. "Probability Density Function Combustion Modeling of Diesel Engine." Combustion Science and Technology 174, no. 10 (2002): 19-54.


"Combustion Modelling For Direct Injection Diesel Engines." Proceedings Of The Institution Of Mechanical Engineers 215, no. 5 (2001): 651–663.

David E. Newton


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Chemical bond

—The force or "glue" that holds atoms together in chemical compounds.

Fossil fuel

—A fuel that is derived from the decay of plant or animal life; coal, oil, and natural gas are the fossil fuels.

Industrial Revolution

—That period, beginning about the middle of the eighteenth century, during which humans began to use steam engines as a major source of power.

Internal combustion engine

—An engine in which the chemical reaction that supplies energy to the engine takes place within the walls of the engine (usually a cylinder) itself.


—The science that deals with the quantity and nature of heat changes that take place during chemical reactions and/or changes of state.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cluster compound to ConcupiscenceCombustion - History, Modern Theory, Combustion Mechanics, Applications, Environmental Issues