The separate effects on heat transfer of 1) piston crown surface finish and 2) the use of a metal based thermal barrier coating (MTBC) on the piston crown of a spark ignition (SI) engine were quantified through experimental analysis in a single cylinder CFR engine. Measured engine parameters such as power, fuel consumption, emissions and cylinder pressure were used to identify the effects of the coating and its surface finish. Two piston coatings were tested: a baseline copper coating and a metal-based thermal barrier coating. Each coating was tested at multiple surface finishes. Tests showed that reducing surface roughness of both coatings increased in-cylinder temperature and pressure as a result of reduced heat transfer through the piston crown. For both coatings, this resulted in small improvements (∼3%) in power and fuel consumption, while also having a measurable effect on emissions. Oxides of nitrogen emissions increased while total hydrocarbon emissions generally decreased as a result of polishing. The polished coatings were also seen to increase in-cylinder peak pressures and burn rates.

Improvements attributed to the TBC were found to be small, but statistically significant. At an equivalent surface finish, the MTBC-coated piston produced slightly higher power output and peak pressures. Hydrocarbon emissions were also seen to be significantly higher for the MTBC-coated piston due to its porosity. The effectiveness of the coating was found to be highly dependent on surface finish.

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