More unusual configurations
Common cylinder configurations include the straight or inline configuration, the more compact V configuration, and the wider but smoother flat or boxer configuration. Aircraft engines can also adopt a radial configuration, which allows more effective cooling. More unusual configurations such as the H, U, X, and W have also been used.
Multiple cylinder engines have their valve train and crankshaft configured so that pistons are at different parts of their cycle. It is desirable to have the piston's cycles uniformly spaced (this is called even firing) especially in forced induction engines; this reduces torque pulsations21 and makes inline engines with more than 3 cylinders statically balanced in its primary forces. However, some engine configurations require odd firing to achieve better balance than what is possible with even firing. For instance, a 4-stroke I2 engine has better balance when the angle between the crankpins is 180° because the pistons move in opposite directions and inertial forces partially cancel, but this gives an odd firing pattern where one cylinder fires 180° of crankshaft rotation after the other, then no cylinder fires for 540°. With an even firing pattern the pistons would move in unison and the associated forces would add.
Multiple crankshaft configurations do not necessarily need a cylinder head at all because they can instead have a piston at each end of the cylinder called an opposed piston design. Because fuel inlets and outlets are positioned at opposed ends of the cylinder, one can achieve uniflow scavenging, which, as in the four-stroke engine is efficient over a wide range of engine speeds. Thermal efficiency is improved because of a lack of cylinder heads. This design was used in the Junkers Jumo 205 diesel aircraft engine, using two crankshafts at either end of a single bank of cylinders, and most remarkably in the Napier Deltic diesel engines. These used three crankshafts to serve three banks of double-ended cylinders arranged in an equilateral triangle with the crankshafts at the corners. It was also used in single-bank locomotive engines, and is still used in marine propulsion engines and marine auxiliary generators.
In engines with more than one cylinder
The base of a reciprocating internal combustion engine is the engine block, which is typically made of cast iron or aluminium. The engine block contains the cylinders. In engines with more than one cylinder they are usually arranged either in 1 row (straight engine) or 2 rows (boxer engine or V engine); 3 rows are occasionally used (W engine) in contemporary engines, and other engine configurations are possible and have been used. Single cylinder engines are common for motorcycles and in small engines of machinery. Water-cooled engines contain passages in the engine block where cooling fluid circulates (the water jacket). Some small engines are air-cooled, and instead of having a water jacket the cylinder block has fins protruding away from it to cool by directly transferring heat to the air. The cylinder walls are usually finished by honing to obtain a cross hatch, which is better able to retain the oil. A too rough surface would quickly harm the engine by excessive wear on the piston.
The pistons are short cylindrical parts which seal one end of the cylinder from the high pressure of the compressed air and combustion products and slide continuously within it while the engine is in operation. The top wall of the piston is termed its crown and is typically flat or concave. Some two-stroke engines use pistons with a deflector head. Pistons are open at the bottom and hollow except for an integral reinforcement structure (the piston web). When an engine is working the gas pressure in the combustion chamber exerts a force on the piston crown which is transferred through its web to a gudgeon pin. Each piston has rings fitted around its circumference that mostly prevent the gases from leaking into the crankcase or the oil into the combustion chamber. A ventilation system drives the small amount of gas that escape past the pistons during normal operation (the blow-by gases) out of the crankcase so that it does not accumulate contaminating the oil and creating corrosion. In two-stroke gasoline engines the crankcase is part of the air?fuel path and due to the continuous flow of it they do not need a separate crankcase ventilation system.
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.