Intake, induction or suction: The intake valves are open as a result of the cam lobe pressing down on the valve stem. The piston moves downward increasing the volume of the combustion chamber and allowing air to enter in the case of a CI engine or an air fuel mix in the case of SI engines that do not use direct injection. The air or air-fuel mixture is called the charge in any case.
Compression: In this stroke, both valves are closed and the piston moves upward reducing the combustion chamber volume which reaches its minimum when the piston is at TDC. The piston performs work on the charge as it is being compressed; as a result its pressure, temperature and density increase; an approximation to this behavior is provided by the ideal gas law. Just before the piston reaches TDC, ignition begins. In the case of a SI engine, the spark plug receives a high voltage pulse that generates the spark which gives it its name and ignites the charge. In the case of a CI engine the fuel injector quickly injects fuel into the combustion chamber as a spray; the fuel ignites due to the high temperature.
Power or working stroke: The pressure of the combustion gases pushes the piston downward, generating more work than it required to compress the charge. Complementary to the compression stroke, the combustion gases expand and as a result their temperature, pressure and density decreases. When the piston is near to BDC the exhaust valve opens. The combustion gases expand irreversibly due to the leftover pressure?in excess of back pressure, the gauge pressure on the exhaust port?; this is called the blowdown.
Exhaust: The exhaust valve remains open while the piston moves upward expelling the combustion gases. For naturally aspirated engines a small part of the combustion gases may remain in the cylinder during normal operation because the piston does not close the combustion chamber completely; these gases dissolve in the next charge. At the end of this stroke, the exhaust valve closes, the intake valve opens, and the sequence repeats in the next cycle. The intake valve may open before the exhaust valve closes to allow better scavenging.
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Reciprocating piston engines are by far the most common power source for land and water vehicles, including automobiles, motorcycles, ships and to a lesser extent, locomotives (some are electrical but most use Diesel engines45). Rotary engines of the Wankel design are used in some automobiles, aircraft and motorcycles.
Where very high power-to-weight ratios are required, internal combustion engines appear in the form of combustion turbines or Wankel engines. Powered aircraft typically uses an ICE which may be a reciprocating engine. Airplanes can instead use jet engines and helicopters can instead employ turboshafts; both of which are types of turbines. In addition to providing propulsion, airliners may employ a separate ICE as an auxiliary power unit. Wankel engines are fitted to many unmanned aerial vehicles.
Big Diesel generator used for backup power
Combined cycle power plant
ICEs drive some of the large electric generators that power electrical grids. They are found in the form of combustion turbines in combined cycle power plants with a typical electrical output in the range of 100 MW to 1 GW. The high temperature exhaust is used to boil and superheat water to run a steam turbine. Thus, the efficiency is higher because more energy is extracted from the fuel than what could be extracted by the combustion turbine alone. In combined cycle power plants efficiencies in the range of 50% to 60% are typical. In a smaller scale Diesel generators are used for backup power and for providing electrical power to areas not connected to an electric grid.
Small engines (usually 2?stroke gasoline engines) are a common power source for lawnmowers, string trimmers, chain saws, leafblowers, pressure washers, snowmobiles, jet skis, outboard motors, mopeds, and motorcycles.