This article describes a study involving new spark plug technology, referred to as pulsed energy spark plug, for use in igniting fuel-air mixtures in a spark ignition internal combustion engine. The study involves precisely controlled constant volume combustion bomb tests. The major defining difference between the pulsed energy spark plug and a conventional spark plug is a peaking capacitor that improves the electrical-to-plasma energy transfer efficiency from a conventional plug’s 1% to the pulsed energy plug’s 50%. Such an increase in transfer efficiency is believed to improve spark energy and subsequently the ignition time and burn rate of a homogeneous, or potentially stratified, fuel-air mixture.
The study observes the pulsed energy plug to shorten the ignition delay of both stoichiometric and lean mixtures (with equivalence ratio of 0.8), relative to a conventional spark plug, without increasing the burn rate. Additionally, the pulsed energy plug demonstrates a decreased lean flammability limit that is about 14% lower (0.76 for conventional plug and 0.65 for pulsed energy plug) than that of the conventional spark plug. These features — advanced ignition of stoichiometric and lean mixtures and decreased lean flammability limits — might qualify the pulsed energy plugs as an enabling technology to effect the mainstream deployment of advanced, ultra-clean and ultra-efficient, spark ignition internal combustion engines. For example, the pulsed energy plug may improve ignition of stratified-GDI engines. Further, the pulsed energy plug technology may improve the attainability of lean-burn homogeneous charge compression ignition combustion by improving the capabilities of spark-assist. Finally, the pulsed energy plug could improve natural gas spark ignition engine development by improving the ignition system. Future work could center efforts on evaluating this spark plug technology in the context of advanced internal combustion engines, to transition the state of the art to the next level.