A comparative analysis of nitrogen and oxygen enriched combustion is presented in this paper. Nitrogen enrichment of intake air is proposed as an alternative to Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR). NOx reduction by EGR is not very promising due to engine reliability concerns and increased maintenance costs. Air separation membrane, on the other hand, is a potential strategy for NOx reduction due to uncompromised reliability of engine performance. Oxygen-rich and nitrogen-rich streams are produced by passing air through a nonporous polymeric membrane. Nitrogen Enriched Air (NEA) reduces NOx formation by lowering in-cylinder combustion temperatures but with a compromise in Fuel Conversion Efficiency (FCE). However, advanced ignition timing improves FCE considerably. Oxygen Enriched Air (OEA), on the other hand, improves FCE due to the availability of extra oxygen for better combustion which results in higher bulk gas temperatures and NOx emissions. This behavior could be controlled by retarding the ignition timing. Experimental results of nitrogen and oxygen enriched combustion of a Kohler M12 generator (converted to operate with natural gas) is presented in this paper. A 68% reduction in NOx and a 0.8% drop in FCE were observed at −30 ATDC ignition timing (IT) with 2.1% N2 enrichment (40 slpm). A 9% O2 enrichment (40 slpm) at −30 ATDC IT improved FCE by 1% but with higher NOx emissions. The increase in NOx emissions was minimal with a 2% improvement in FCE at −10 ATDC IT and 9% O2 enrichment (40 slpm). Some of the drawbacks encountered were engine misfire at higher concentrations of nitrogen enriched air and retarded ignition timing resulting in poor FCE. This paper discusses both the approaches and highlights the benefits of nitrogen enrichment using an air separation membrane over its counterpart for NOx reduction.

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