Lean or diluted combustion has been considered as an effective strategy to improve the thermal efficiency of spark ignition engines. Under lean or diluted conditions, the combustion speed is reduced by the diluting gas. In order to speed up the combustion, in-cylinder flow is intentionally enhanced to promote the flame propagation. However, it is observed that the flow may make the spark ignition process more challenging due to the shortened discharge duration, the frequent re-strikes of spark plasma and the more complicated interactions between the flow and the flame.

In this research, the effects of spark discharge current level and discharge duration on flame kernel development and flame propagation of lean methane air mixture are investigated under flow velocity of about 25 m/s and background pressure of 4 bar abs in an optical combustion chamber. A dual coil ignition system and an in-house developed current management module are used to create different discharge current levels. The average discharge current levels range from 55 mA, 190 mA, up to 250 mA. Detached flame kernel is observed under some test conditions. The flame propagation speed with the detached flame is generally slower than the flame developed from a flame kernel attached to the spark plug. The flame detachment is related to both the discharge current level and the discharge duration. When the discharge current level is high at 250 mA, the detached flame is observed at shorter discharge duration of 0.8 ms, while when the discharge current is low at 190 mA, detached flame can happen at longer discharge duration of 1.3 ms.

Various discharge current and discharge durations are adopted to initiate the combustion in a single-cylinder engine operating with lean gasoline air mixture. It is shown from the results that a higher discharge current level and longer discharge duration are beneficial for controlling the combustion phasing and improving the operation stability of the engine.

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