Spark plug
A spark plug is an electrical device that fits into the cylinder head
Cylinder head
In an internal combustion engine, the cylinder head sits above the cylinders on top of the cylinder block. It closes in the top of the cylinder, forming the combustion chamber. This joint is sealed by a head gasket...

 of some internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

s and ignites compressed fuels such as aerosol, gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

, ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, and liquefied petroleum gas by means of an electric spark
Electric spark
An electric spark is a type of electrostatic discharge that occurs when an electric field creates an ionized electrically conductive channel in air producing a brief emission of light and sound. A spark is formed when the electric field strength exceeds the dielectric field strength of air...

Spark plugs have an insulated central electrode which is connected by a heavily insulated wire to an ignition coil
Ignition coil
An ignition coil is an induction coil in an automobile's ignition system which transforms the battery's 12 volts to the thousands of volts needed to create an electric spark in the spark plugs to ignite the fuel...

 or magneto
Magneto (electrical)
A magneto is an electrical generator that uses permanent magnets to produce alternating current.Magnetos adapted to produce pulses of high voltage are used in the ignition systems of some gasoline-powered internal combustion engines to provide power to the spark plugs...

 circuit on the outside, forming, with a grounded terminal on the base of the plug, a spark gap
Spark gap
A spark gap consists of an arrangement of two conducting electrodes separated by a gap usually filled with a gas such as air, designed to allow an electric spark to pass between the conductors. When the voltage difference between the conductors exceeds the gap's breakdown voltage, a spark forms,...

 inside the cylinder.

Reciprocating internal combustion engines can be divided into spark-ignition engines, which require spark plugs to initiate combustion, and compression-ignition engines (diesel engines), which compress the air and then inject diesel fuel into the heated compressed air mixture where it autoignites.

Spark plugs may also be used in other applications such as furnace
A furnace is a device used for heating. The name derives from Latin fornax, oven.In American English and Canadian English, the term furnace on its own is generally used to describe household heating systems based on a central furnace , and sometimes as a synonym for kiln, a device used in the...

s where a combustible mixture should be ignited.