The piston of a reciprocating engine is a cylindrical member which moves back and forth within a steel cylinder. The piston acts as a moving wall within the combustion chamber. As the piston moves down in the cylinder, it draws in the fuel/air mixture. As it moves upward, it compresses the charge, ignition occurs, and the expanding gases force the piston downward. This force is transmitted to the crankshaft through the connecting rod. On the return upward stroke, the piston forces the exhaust gases from the cylinder.
The majority of aircraft engine pistons are machined from aluminium alloy forgings. Grooves are machined in the outside surface of the piston to receive the piston rings, and cooling fins are provided on the inside of the piston for greater heat transfer to the engine oil.
Pistons may be either the trunk type or the slipper type. Slipper type pistons are not used in modern, high-powered engines. All the rings will be fitted above the gudgeon pin(Piston pin). The top face of the piston, or head, may be either flat, convex, or concave. Recesses may be machined in the piston head to prevent interference with the valves.
As many as six grooves may be machined around the piston to accommodate the compression rings and oil rings. The compression rings are installed in the three uppermost grooves; the oil control rings are installed immediately above the piston pin. The piston is usually drilled at the oil control ring grooves to allow surplus oil scraped from the cylinder walls by the oil control rings to pass back into the crankcase. An oil scraper ring is installed at the base of the piston wall or skirt to prevent excessive oil consumption. The portions of the piston walls that lie between each pair of ring grooves are called the ring lands.
In addition to acting as a guide for the piston head, the piston skirt incorporates the piston-pin bosses. The piston-pin bosses are of heavy construction to enable the heavy load on the piston head to be transferred to the piston pin.