It is well known that the spark advance is one of the most important parameters influencing the efficiency of a spark ignition engine. A change in this parameter causes a shift in the combustion phase, whose optimal position, with respect to the piston motion, implies the maximum brake mean effective pressure for given operative conditions. The best spark timing is usually estimated by means of experimental trials on the engine test bed or by means of thermodynamic simulations of the engine cycle. In this work, instead, the authors developed, under some simplifying hypothesis, an original theoretical formulation for the estimation of the optimal combustion phase. The most significant parameters involved with the combustion phase are taken into consideration; in particular, the influence of the combustion duration, of the heat release law, of the heat transfer to the combustion chamber walls, and of the mechanical friction losses is evaluated. The theoretical conclusion, experimentally proven by many authors, is that the central point of the combustion phase (known as the location of the 50% of mass fraction burnt, here called MFB50) must be delayed with respect to the top dead center as a consequence of both heat exchange between gas and chamber walls and friction losses.

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