Increased utilization of natural gas (NG) in the transportation sector can decrease the use of petroleum-based fuels and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Heavy-duty diesel engines retrofitted to NG spark ignition (SI) can achieve higher efficiencies and low NOX, CO, and hydrocarbon (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 (ST), 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 ST. 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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