A laser-based system should be advantageous to a spark-plug based ignition system. Free choice of the ignition spot and precise timing constitute two major advantages. Multi point laser ignition could lead to higher efficiencies, and laser ignition as such is capable of igniting leaner mixtures than a spark plug, thereby decreasing thermal NOx and soot emissions. This paper is devoted to advances in optical diagnostics of laser ignition for future internal combustion engines. The focus of this paper is on diagnostics at high pressures, that is engine-like conditions. Laser ignition tests were performed with the fuels methane, hydrogen and biogas in static combustion cells with dimensions comparable to stationary engines. A Nd:YAG laser (5 ns pulse duration, wavelength 1064 nm, 1–20 mJ pulse energy) was used to ignite gaseous fuel/air mixtures at initial pressures of 1–3 MPa. Schlieren photography and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) were used for optical diagnostics (flame kernel development, shock wave propagation). The lean burn characteristics were investigated. Schlieren photography was used to determine the velocity of the shock wave and to study the influence of the shock wave on temperature rise and energy loss. Using planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF), the spatial distribution of the combustion intermediates OH and formaldehyde were recorded. The temporally resolved imaging shows that the initial stages of the flame front evolution closely follows the turbulence and density fluctuations caused by the shock and pressure wave induced by the laser spark. In this paper, results from LIF spectroscopy and Schlieren photography are compared. Depending on the laser pulse energy and focus size, at later stages after the ignition the flame front propagation approaches the laminar burning regime and flame front speed decrease. Flame front break up at lean conditions indicates the limit of the ignitable mixture fraction when the speed due to spark-induced convection exceeds the flame propagation rate.

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