Dual-fuel (DF) engines offer great fuel flexibility combined with low emissions in gas mode. The main source of energy in this mode is provided by gaseous fuel, while the diesel fuel acts only as an ignition source. For this reason, the reliable autoignition of the pilot fuel is of utmost importance for combustion in DF engines. However, the autoignition of the pilot fuel suffers from low compression temperatures caused by Miller valve timings. These valve timings are applied to increase efficiency and reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Previous studies have investigated the influence of injection parameters and operating conditions on ignition and combustion in DF engines using a unique periodically chargeable combustion cell. Direct light high-speed images and pressure traces clearly revealed the effects of injection parameters and operating conditions on ignition and combustion. However, these measurement techniques are only capable of observing processes after ignition. In order to overcome this drawback, a high-speed shadowgraph technique was applied in this study to examine the processes prior to ignition. Measurements were conducted to investigate the influence of compression temperature and injection pressure on spray formation and ignition. Results showed that the autoignition of diesel pilot fuel strongly depends on the fuel concentration within the spray. The high-speed shadowgraph images revealed that in the case of very low fuel concentration within the pilot spray, only the first stage of the two-stage ignition occurs. This leads to large cycle-to-cycle variations and misfiring. However, it was found that a reduced number of injection holes counteract these effects. The comparison of a diesel injector with ten-holes and a modified injector with five-holes showed shorter ignition delays, more stable ignition and a higher number of ignited sprays on a percentage basis for the five-hole nozzle.

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