Main article: 2-stroke engine
The defining characteristic of this kind of engine is that each piston completes a cycle every crankshaft revolution. The 4 processes of intake, compression, power and exhaust take place in only 2 strokes so that it is not possible to dedicate a stroke exclusively for each of them. Starting at TDC the cycle consist of:
Power: While the piston is descending the combustion gases perform work on it?as in a 4-stroke engine?. The same thermodynamic considerations about the expansion apply.
Scavenging: Around 75° of crankshaft rotation before BDC the exhaust valve or port opens, and blowdown occurs. Shortly thereafter the intake valve or transfer port opens. The incoming charge displaces the remaining combustion gases to the exhaust system and a part of the charge may enter the exhaust system as well. The piston reaches BDC and reverses direction. After the piston has traveled a short distance upwards into the cylinder the exhaust valve or port closes; shortly the intake valve or transfer port closes as well.
Compression: With both intake and exhaust closed the piston continues moving upwards compressing the charge and performing a work on it. As in the case of a 4-stroke engine, ignition starts just before the piston reaches TDC and the same consideration on the thermodynamics of the compression on the charge.
While a 4-stroke engine uses the piston as a positive displacement pump to accomplish scavenging taking 2 of the 4 strokes, a 2-stroke engine uses the last part of the power stroke and the first part of the compression stroke for combined intake and exhaust. The work required to displace the charge and exhaust gases comes from either the crankcase or a separate blower. For scavenging, expulsion of burned gas and entry of fresh mix, two main approaches are described: Loop scavenging, and Uniflow scavenging, SAE news published in the 2010s that 'Loop Scavenging' is better under any circumstance than Uniflow Scavenging.6
An engine of this type
Diagram of uniflow scavenging
Using a separate blower avoids many of the shortcomings of crankcase scavenging, at the expense of increased complexity which means a higher cost and an increase in maintenance requirement. An engine of this type uses ports or valves for intake and valves for exhaust, except opposed piston engines, which may also use ports for exhaust. The blower is usually of the Roots-type but other types have been used too. This design is commonplace in CI engines, and has been occasionally used in SI engines.
CI engines that use a blower typically use uniflow scavenging. In this design the cylinder wall contains several intake ports placed uniformly spaced along the circumference just above the position that the piston crown reaches when at BDC. An exhaust valve or several like that of 4-stroke engines is used. The final part of the intake manifold is an air sleeve which feeds the intake ports. The intake ports are placed at an horizontal angle to the cylinder wall (I.e: they are in plane of the piston crown) to give a swirl to the incoming charge to improve combustion. The largest reciprocating IC are low speed CI engines of this type; they are used for marine propulsion (see marine diesel engine) or electric power generation and achieve the highest thermal efficiencies among internal combustion engines of any kind. Some Diesel-electric locomotive engines operate on the 2-stroke cycle. The most powerful of them have a brake power of around 4.5 MW or 6,000 HP. The EMD SD90MAC class of locomotives use a 2-stroke engine. The comparable class GE AC6000CW whose prime mover has almost the same brake power uses a 4-stroke engine.
An example of this type of engine is the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C turbocharged 2-stroke Diesel, used in large container ships. It is the most efficient and powerful internal combustion engine in the world with a thermal efficiency over 50%.9101112 For comparison, the most efficient small four-stroke engines are around 43% thermally-efficient (SAE 900648);citation needed size is an advantage for efficiency due to the increase in the ratio of volume to surface area.
See the external links for a in-cylinder combustion video in a 2-stroke, optically accessible motorcycle engine.
Dugald Clerk developed the first two cycle engine in 1879. It used a separate cylinder which functioned as a pump in order to transfer the fuel mixture to the cylinder.6
In 1899 John Day simplified Clerk's design into the type of 2 cycle engine that is very widely used today.13 Day cycle engines are crankcase scavenged and port timed. The crankcase and the part of the cylinder below the exhaust port is used as a pump. The operation of the Day cycle engine begins when the crankshaft is turned so that the piston moves from BDC upward (toward the head) creating a vacuum in the crankcase/cylinder area. The carburetor then feeds the fuel mixture into the crankcase through a reed valve or a rotary disk valve (driven by the engine). There are cast in ducts from the crankcase to the port in the cylinder to provide for intake and another from the exhausst port to the exhaust pipe. The height of the port in relationship to the length of the cylinder is called the "port timing."
On the first upstroke of the engine there would be no fuel inducted into the cylinder as the crankcase was empty. On the downstroke the piston now compresses the fuel mix, which has lubricated the piston in the cylinder and the bearings due to the fuel mix having oil added to it. As the piston moves downward is first uncovers the exhaust, but on the first stroke there is no burnt fuel to exhaust. As the piston moves downward further, it uncovers the intake port which has a duct that runs to the crankcase. Since the fuel mix in the crankcase is under pressure the mix moves through the duct and into the cylinder.
Because there is no obstruction in the cylinder of the fuel to move directly out of the exhaust port prior to the piston rising far enough to close the port, early engines used a high domed piston to slow down the flow of fuel. Later the fuel was "resonated" back into the cylinder using an expansion chamber design. When the piston rose close to TDC a spark ignites the fuel. As the piston is driven downward with power it first uncovers the exhaust port where the burned fuel is expelled under high pressure and then the intake port where the process has been completed and will keep repeating.
Later engines used a type of porting devised by the Deutz company to improve performance. It was called the Schnurle Reverse Flow system. DKW licensed this design for all their motorcycles. Their DKW RT 125 was one of the first motor vehicles to achieve over 100 mpg as a result.14