The operation of spark ignition (SI) engines on lean mixtures is attractive, in principle, since it can provide improved fuel economy, reduced tendency to knock, and extremely low NOx emissions. However, the associated flame propagation rates become degraded significantly and drop sharply as the operating mixture is made increasingly leaner. Consequently, there exist distinct operational lean mixture limits beyond which satisfactory engine performance cannot be maintained due to the resulting prolonged and unstable combustion processes. This paper presents experimental data obtained in a single cylinder, variable compression ratio, SI engine when operated in turn on methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, gasoline, iso-octane, and some of their binary mixtures. A quantitative approach for determining the operational limits of SI engines is proposed. The lean limits thus derived are compared and validated against the corresponding experimental results obtained using more traditional approaches. On this basis, the dependence of the values of the lean mixture operational limits on the composition of the fuel mixtures is investigated and discussed. The operational limit for throttled operation with methane as the fuel is also established.

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