The goal of this study is to address fundamental limitations to achieving diesel-like efficiencies in heavy duty on-highway natural gas (NG) engines. Engine knock and misfire are barriers to pathways leading to higher efficiency engines. This study explores enabling technologies for development of high efficiency stoichiometric, spark ignited, natural gas engines. These include design strategies for fast and stable combustion and higher dilution tolerance. Additionally, advanced control methodologies are implemented to maintain stable operation between knock and misfire limits. To implement controlled end-gas autoignition (C-EGAI) strategies a Combustion Intensity Metric (CIM) is used for ignition control with the use of a Woodward large engine control module (LECM).

Tests were conducted using a single cylinder, variable compression ratio, cooperative fuel research (CFR) engine with baseline conditions of 900 RPM, engine load of 800 kPa indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP), and stoichiometric air/fuel ratio. Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) tests were performed using a custom EGR system that simulates a high pressure EGR loop and can provide a range of EGR rates from 0 to 40%. The experimental measurements included the variance of EGR rate, compression ratio, engine speed, IMEP, and CIM. These five variables were optimized through a Modified BoxBenken design Surface Response Method (RSM), with brake efficiency as the merit function.

A positive linear correlation between CIM and f-EGAI was identified. Consequently, CIM was used as the feedback control parameter for C-EGAI. As such, implementation of C-EGAI effectively allowed for the utilization of high EGR rates and CRs, controlling combustion between a narrower gap between knock and lean limits. The change from fixed to parametric ignition timing with CIM targeted select values of f-EGAI with an average coefficient of variance (COV) of peak pressure of 5.4. The RSM efficiency optimization concluded with operational conditions of 1080 RPM, 1150 kPa IMEP, 10.55:1 compression ratio, and 17.8% EGR rate with a brake efficiency of 21.3%. At this optimized point of peak performance, a f-EGAI for C-EGAI was observed at 34.1% heat release due to auto ignition, a knock onset crank angle value of 10.3° aTDC and ignition timing of −24.7° aTDC. This work has demonstrated that combustion at a fixed f-EGAI can be maintained through advanced ignition control of CIM without experiencing heavy knocking events.

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