Increased utilization of natural-gas (NG) in the transportation sector can decrease the use of petroleum-based fuels and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Heavy-duty diesel engines retrofitted to NG spark ignition (SI) can achieve higher efficiencies and low NOx, CO, and HC emissions when operated under lean-burn conditions. To investigate the SI lean-burn combustion phenomena in a bowl-in-piston combustion chamber, a conventional heavy-duty direct-injection CI engine was converted to SI operation by replacing the fuel injector with a spark plug and by fumigating NG in the intake manifold. Steady-state engine experiments and numerical simulations were performed at several operating conditions that changed spark timing, engine speed, and mixture equivalence ratio. Results suggested a two-zone NG combustion inside the diesel-like combustion chamber. More frequent and significant late burn (including double-peak heat release rate) was observed for advanced spark timing. This was due to the chamber geometry affecting the local flame speed, which resulted in a faster and thicker flame in the bowl but a slower and thinner flame in the squish volume. Good combustion stability (COVIMEP < 3 %), moderate rate of pressure rise, and lack of knocking showed promise for heavy-duty CI engines converted to NG SI operation.

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