Low temperature diesel combustion offers an opportunity to simultaneously and substantially reduce exhaust nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions. One issue that remains an area of investigation is the improvement of engine efficiency (i.e., specific fuel consumption) for the novel mode of combustion. The objective of this article is to assess the several parameters (i.e., friction, pumping work, combustion phasing, heat transfer rate, and combustion efficiency) that affect the brake fuel conversion efficiencies of a medium-duty diesel engine as its combustion mode is transitioned from conventional to low temperature. The analysis reveals that, in this study’s development of low temperature combustion, late combustion phasing is the primary factor causing a decrease in brake fuel conversion efficiency. To enable low temperature combustion, combustion is retarded to a point where peak rate of heat release occurs at around 24° after top dead center. Such late combustion misses the opportunity to utilize the full expansion stroke of the piston. Although exhaust hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide concentrations increase as a result of the later-phased low temperature combustion mode, combustion efficiency only drops to around 90%. This decrease in combustion efficiency accounts for only about 18.7% of the corresponding decrease in brake fuel conversion efficiency (the balance decrease being caused by the later-phased combustion). Other factors that typically deteriorate brake fuel conversion efficiency (i.e., pumping work, friction, and rate of heat transfer) are all decreased with this study’s development of low temperature combustion. It is important to note that other implementations of low temperature combustion (e.g., advanced timing low temperature combustion) may not necessarily realize the same reductions in brake fuel conversion efficiency, or reductions may not necessarily be caused by the same dominant factors that are observed in this study’s later-phased low temperature combustion mode.

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