A reciprocating engine, also often known as a piston engine, is an engine that utilizes one or more pistons in order to convert pressure into a rotating motion.
The most common form of reciprocating engines use the burning of gasoline or dieselfuel to provide pressure. There may be one or more pistons. Each piston is located inside a cylinder, into which a fuel and air mixture is introduced, and then ignited. The now hot gases expand, pushing the piston away. The linear movement of the piston is converted to a circular movement via a connecting rod and a crankshaft. These engines are known collectively as internal-combustion engines, although internal-combustion engines do not necessarily contain pistons.
Though not often used today, steam is another power source for reciprocating engines, in the steam engine. In these cases high pressure steam is used to drive the piston. In most applications of steam power, the piston engine has been replaced by the more efficient turbine instead, with pistons being used in cars owing to their requirement for a high level of torque.
The relative positions of the piston and the slide valve are governed by the relative positions of where the crankshaft and the slide valve rod are fastened to the flywheel.
By varying the point in the engine cycle at which steam is admitted to the cylinder, it is possible to vary the amount of compression and expansion in the cylinder and hence to vary the power output of the engine.
Further improvement in the design of steamengines is afforded by the uniflow engine, which uses the piston itself as a valve and in which all portions of the cylinder remain at approximately the same temperature when the engine is operating.
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