Two-stroke engines are often used for their low cost, simplicity, and power density. However, these engines suffer efficiency penalties due to fuel short-circuiting. Increasing power density has previously been an area of focus for performance two-stroke engines — such as in dirt bikes. Smaller-displacement engines have also been used to power remote controlled cars, boats, and aircraft. These engines typically rely on gasoline or higher-octane liquid fuels. However, natural gas is an inherently knock-resistant fuel and small natural gas engines and generators could see increased market penetration. Power generators typically operate at a fixed frequency with varied load, which can take advantage of intake and exhaust system tuning. In addition, stationary engines may not be subject to size restrictions of optimal intake and exhaust systems.
This paper examines methods to improve combustion stability, efficiency, and power density of a 29cc air-cooled two-stroke engine converted to operate on natural gas. Initial conversion showed significant penalties on delivery ratio, which lowered power density and efficiency. To overcome these issues a tuned intake pipe, two exhaust resonators, and a combustion dome were designed and tested. The engine was operated at 5400 RPM and fueling was adjusted to yield maximum brake-torque (MBT). All tests were conducted under wide-open throttle conditions. The intake and exhaust systems were designed based on Helmholtz resonance theory and empirical data. The engine utilized a two-piece cylinder head with removable combustion dome. The combustion dome was modified for optimal compression ratio while decreasing squish area and volume. With all designs incorporated, power increased from 0.22 kW to 1.07 kW — a factor of 4.86. Efficiency also increased from 7% to 12%. In addition to these performance gains, the coefficient of variation (COV) of indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP) decreased from just above 11% to less than 4%.