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Piston (447)

A piston is a component of reciprocating engines, reciprocating pumps, gas compressors and pneumatic cylinders, among other similar mechanisms. It is the moving component that is contained by a cylinder and is made gas-tight by piston rings. In an engine, its purpose is to transfer force from expanding gas in the cylinder to the crankshaft via a piston rod and/or connecting rod. In a pump, the function is reversed and force is transferred from the crankshaft to the piston for the purpose of compressing or ejecting the fluid in the cylinder. In some engines, the piston also acts as a valve by covering and uncovering ports in the cylinder wall.

Early pistons were of cast iron, but there were obvious benefits for engine balancing if a lighter alloy could be used. To produce pistons that could survive engine combustion temperatures, it was necessary to develop new alloys such as Y alloy and Hiduminium, specifically for use as pistons.

Trunk pistons
Trunk piston for a modern diesel engine. Trunk pistons are long, relative to their diameter. They act as both piston and also as a cylindrical crosshead. As the connecting rod is angled for part of its rotation, there is also a side force that reacts along the side of the piston against the cylinder wall. A longer piston helps to support this.

Crosshead pistons
Large slow-speed Diesel engines may require additional support for the side forces on the piston. These engines typically use crosshead pistons.

Slipper pistons
Slipper pistonA slipper piston is a piston for a petrol engine that has been reduced in size and weight as much as possible.

Deflector pistons
Two-stroke deflector pistonDeflector pistons are used in two-stroke engines with crankcase compression, where the gas flow within the cylinder must be carefully directed in order to provide efficient scavenging.