Piston engines serve as one of the most popular forms of engines that are used today. Any adult who drives may not even realize that they rely on a piston engine everyday as almost every automobile utilizes one. Smaller aircraft also utilize piston engines for their fuel combustion and functionality. So what are piston engines, and how do they work?
Piston engines provide for a very easy and efficient method of fuel combustion for vehicles. Commonly referred to as a reciprocating engine, these engines utilize one or more pistons, each housed within a cylinder that works to translate pressure into rotational motion. This is achieved through what is a four stroke cycle which consists of intake, compression, ignition, and exhaust.
The engine first draws fuel and air into the combustion chamber through an intake port which pushes the piston down. As the piston moves back up, the fuel and air is compressed before it is ignited by a spark plug. This combustion creates a great force of hot air which forces the piston down, generating the energy. As the piston makes its way up one last time, the exhaust gas is then pushed out of the engine before the process is repeated again.
Within the realm of aviation, piston engines are mostly commonly seen with smaller aircraft. These planes may feature a limited number of seats and often only fly a few hundred miles at most. They also tend to stick in altitudes that never exceed over 15,000 feet. Aircraft of these types are often used for business trips, and typically land and takeoff from smaller airports. Piston engines also serve a majority of automobiles, excluding electric which relies on motors.
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