Blog How Do Rotary Engines Work?

How Do Rotary Engines Work?

Rotary engines are a type of internal combustion engine often found in a number of small aircraft and sports automobiles alike. The rotary engine is similar in its operation to a more conventional piston engine, though the combustion process is carried out through individual cylinders that are assembled in radial formation. While the engine has long been surpassed by many newer types, recent years have seen a comeback of the engine in certain performance automobiles. Additionally, some light aircraft may still utilize radial engines as well, thus having a knowledge of how they work can be beneficial for any owner or prospective owner. In this blog, we will provide a basic overview of how the rotary engine works, allowing you to understand their primary components and functionalities.

With a circle of cylinders encompassing a central crankshaft, the cylinder block rotates around the stationary crankshaft as fuel and air enter the system, mix, and combust. By harnessing the resulting pressure from ignited fuel mixtures, power can be created for moving a vehicle and operating systems. As compared to more conventional piston powered engines, the rotary engine is capable of running smoothly and cool when placed in airflow, such as when serving as an aircraft engine. Additionally, rotary engines are lighter than other reciprocating engines, adding to their advantage. To carry out such an operation and provide an automobile or aircraft with movement, the combustion engine relies on a number of parts that work together to provide functionality.

As one of the primary components of a rotary engine, the housing provides for the intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust procedures through separate sections. To ensure that intake gases can enter the system and that exhaust is expelled, the housing contains two ports that are devoid of valves. The intake port is typically attached to the throttle itself, while the exhaust port connects to the exhaust.

To ensure that gases remain within the housing for operation, a rotor with three convex faces is pressed against the surface of the housing to act as a tight seal. With a pocket on each side of the rotor, more gas can be present within the housing to increase the rate of displacement. To ensure proper and efficient operation, the rotor spins on gears which always maintain the connection of one side of the rotor with the housing. As such, combustion pockets are always present for the housing’s use as the rotor spins.

As power is created through the combustion of gases, it needs to be transferred to other sections of the vehicle so that it may be put to use. With the output shaft connected to the rotor through round lobes, the components spin together which allows the shaft to transfer energy through the system. As such, the output shaft creates the ability for automobile wheels or other vehicles to harness the power of the combustion engine for movement.

While piston engines remain the current industry standard for automobiles and may be present on many older aircraft, the rotary engine does provide some advantages. With fewer moving parts as compared to other engines, the rotary engine has higher reliability and requires less maintenance and overhauls. With the low number of parts and its method of operation, the  rotary engine is also quite smooth and quiet as compared to pistons, and the rotary housing can assist in dampening vibration for more comfort. Lastly, rotary engines are operated much slower as compared to pistons, lengthening their service lives to further decrease the need for high maintenance.

At ASAP Distribution, we can help you secure the rotary engine parts and components that you need for your aircraft or automobile with ease. As a leading aircraft parts distributor, we provide customers access to over 2 billion new, used, and obsolete components that are ready for purchase through our website today. With industry experts available 24/7x365, customers can receive personalized quotes that have been specifically crafted to meet individual needs and requirements. Get started on the purchasing process for the parts that you are interested in today and experience how ASAP Distribution is revolutionizing the part procurement process.


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