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Electricity could also be used to produce heat, and thus it was used in the smelting of metals, especially the newly discovered aluminum. Oil is another of the great sources of energy that acquired preponderance in the second half of the 19th century. Although it was known and used previously thanks to accidental discoveries, its commercial exploitation began with the drilling of the Drake well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859. Like electricity, liquid oil and its derivative, natural gas , were originally used primarily as lighting sources. Crude oil is made up of various substances or ‘fractions’
tions’. Of these, kerosene was initially considered the most valuable because of its suitability for oil lamps. Other fractions were used as lubricants, the demand for which increased rapidly with the extension of machinery with moving parts, and for medicinal purposes. The heavier residual fractions, initially treated as waste, were ultimately used as a means of domestic and industrial heating, in competition with coal and other traditional energy sources. Lighter, more volatile fractions, such as naphtha and gasoline, were long considered hazardous. Meanwhile, however, various inventors and engineers, notably the Germans Nikolaus Otto, Karl Benz, and Gottfried Daimler, were experimenting with internal combustion engines. In 1900 several had already been designed, most of them using as fuel one of the various distillations of liquid petroleum, such as gasoline and diesel. Without a doubt, the most important use of the internal combustion engine was in light transport vehicles, such as cars, trucks and buses; In the hands of entrepreneurs such as the French Armand Peugeot, Louis Renault and André Citroën, the British William Morris and the American Henry Ford, it gave rise to one of the most important industries of the 20th century. The internal combustion engine also had industrial applications, and in the 20th century it made possible the development of the aeronautical industry. 3.2
By the early 19th century, the processes of smelting and puddling with coke to produce pig iron and refine it to make wrought iron were practically widespread in Britain, giving British smelters a competitive advantage over their foreign counterparts. In the second half of the 18th century, attempts had been made both in France and in Prussian Silesia, under royal patronage, to introduce coke smelting, but this did not have much economic acceptance and, in the turmoil of the revolutionary wars and Napoleonic, no further experiments were carried out.