Reciprocating Engine Operating Principles

The relationships between pressure, volume, and temperature of gases are the basic principles of engine operation. An internal combustion engine is a device for converting heat energy into mechanical energy. Gasoline is vaporized and mixed with air, forced or drawn into a cylinder, compressed by a piston, and then ignited by an electric spark. The conversion of the resultant heat energy into mechanical energy and then into work is accomplished in the cylinder. Figure illustrates the various engine components necessary to accomplish this conversion and also presents the principal terms used to indicate engine operation.

The operating cycle of an internal combustion reciprocating engine includes the series of events required to induct, compress, ignite, and burn, causing expansion of the fuel/ air charge in the cylinder and to scavenge or exhaust the byproducts of the combustion process. When the compressed mixture is ignited, the resultant gases of combustion expand very rapidly and force the piston to move away from the cylinder head. This downward motion of the piston, acting on the crankshaft through the connecting rod, is converted to a circular or rotary motion by the crankshaft. A valve in the top or head of the cylinder opens to allow the burned gases to escape, and the momentum of the crankshaft and the propeller forces the piston back up in the cylinder where it is ready for the next event in the cycle.

Another valve in the cylinder head then opens to let in a fresh charge of the fuel/air mixture. The valve allowing for the escape of the burning exhaust gases is called the exhaust valve, and the valve which lets in the fresh charge of the fuel/air mixture is called the intake valve. These valves are opened and closed mechanically at the proper times by the valve-operating mechanism.

The bore of a cylinder is its inside diameter. The stroke is the distance the piston moves from one end of the cylinder to the other, specifically from top dead center (TDC) to bottom dead center (BDC), or vice versa. [Figure]

Reciprocating Engine Operating Principles
Components and terminology of engine operation