Over the last few decades, emissions regulations for internal combustion engines have become increasingly restrictive, pushing researchers around the world to exploit innovative propulsion solutions. Among them, the dual fuel low temperature combustion (LTC) strategy has proven capable of reducing fuel consumption and while meeting emissions regulations for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) without problematic aftertreatment systems. However, further investigations are still needed to reduce engine-out hydrocarbon (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions as well as to extend the operational range and to further improve the performance and efficiency of dual-fuel engines.

In this scenario, the present study focuses on numerical simulation of fumigated methane-diesel dual fuel LTC in a single-cylinder research engine (SCRE) operating at low load and high methane percent energy substitution (PES). Results are validated against experimental cylinder pressure and apparent heat release rate (AHRR) data. A 3D full-cylinder RANS simulation is used to thoroughly understand the influence of the start of injection (SOI) of diesel fuel on the overall combustion behavior, clarifying the causes of AHRR transition from two-stage AHRR at late SOIs to single-stage AHRR at early SOIs, low temperature heat release (LTHR) behavior, as well as high HC production.

The numerical campaign shows that it is crucial to reliably represent the interaction between the diesel spray and the in-cylinder charge to match both local and overall methane energy fraction, which in turn, ensures a proper representation of the whole combustion. To that aim, even a slight deviation (∼3%) of the trapped mass or of the thermodynamic conditions would compromise the numerical accuracy, highlighting the importance of properly capturing all the phenomena occurring during the engine cycle.

The comparison between numerical and experimental AHRR curves shows the capability of the numerical framework proposed to correctly represent the dual-fuel combustion process, including low temperature heat release (LTHR) and the transition from two-stage to single stage AHRR with advancing SOI. The numerical simulations allow for quantitative evaluation of the residence time of vapor-phase diesel fuel inside the combustion chamber and at the same time tracking the evolution of local diesel mass fraction during ignition delay — showing their influence on the LTHR phenomena. Oxidation regions of diesel and ignition points of methane are also displayed for each case, clarifying the reasons for the observed differences in combustion evolution at different SOIs.

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