The silent path: The development of the single sleeve valve two-stroke engine over the last 110 years

Robert Head, James Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At the beginning of the 20th century the operational issues of the Otto engine had not been fully resolved. The work presented here seeks to chronicle the development of one of the alternative design pathways, namely the replacement for the gas exchange mechanism of the more conventional poppet valve arrangement with that of a sleeve valve. There have been several successful engines built with these devices, which have a number of attractive features superior to poppet valves. This review moves from the initial work of Charles Knight, Peter Burt, and James McCollum, in the first decade of the 20th century, through the work of others to develop a two-stroke version of the sleeve-valve engine, which climaxed in the construction of one of the most powerful piston aeroengines ever built, the Rolls-Royce Crecy. After that period of high activity in the 1940s, there have been limited further developments. The patent efforts changed over time from design of two-stroke sleeve-drive mechanisms through to cylinder head cooling and improvements in the control of the thermal expansion of the relative components to improve durability. These documents provide a foundation for a design of an internal combustion engine with potentially high thermal efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number616
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2021


  • Patents
  • Sleeve valves
  • Two-stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Control and Optimization
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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