Research Papers: Internal Combustion Engines

An Experimental Investigation of Early Flame Development in an Optical Spark Ignition Engine Fueled With Natural Gas

[+] Author and Article Information
Cosmin E. Dumitrescu

Center for Alternative Fuels Engines
and Emissions (CAFEE),
Center for Innovation in Gas Research and
Utilization (CIGRU),
West Virginia University,
Morgantown, WV 26506
e-mail: cosmin.dumitrescu@mail.wvu.edu

Vishnu Padmanaban

Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and
Emissions (CAFEE),
West Virginia University,
Morgantown, WV 26506
e-mail: vipadmanaban@mix.wvu.edu

Jinlong Liu

Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and
Emissions (CAFEE),
West Virginia University,
Morgantown, WV 26506
e-mail: jlliu@mix.wvu.edu

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the IC Engine Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING FOR GAS TURBINES AND POWER. Manuscript received February 19, 2018; final manuscript received February 26, 2018; published online May 29, 2018. Editor: David Wisler.

J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 140(8), 082802 (May 29, 2018) (9 pages) Paper No: GTP-18-1079; doi: 10.1115/1.4039616 History: Received February 19, 2018; Revised February 26, 2018

Improved internal combustion engine simulations of natural gas (NG) combustion under conventional and advanced combustion strategies have the potential to increase the use of NG in the transportation sector in the U.S. This study focused on the physics of turbulent flame propagation. The experiments were performed in a single-cylinder heavy-duty compression-ignition (CI) optical engine with a bowl-in piston that was converted to spark ignition (SI) NG operation. The size and growth rate of the early flame from the start of combustion (SOC) until the flame filled the camera field-of-view were correlated to combustion parameters determined from in-cylinder pressure data, under low-speed, lean-mixture, and medium-load conditions. Individual cycles showed evidence of turbulent flame wrinkling, but the cycle-averaged flame edge propagated almost circular in the two-dimensional (2D) images recorded from below. More, the flame-speed data suggested different flame propagation inside a bowl-in piston geometry compared to a typical SI engine chamber. For example, while the flame front propagated very fast inside the piston bowl, the corresponding mass fraction burn was small, which suggested a thick flame region. In addition, combustion images showed flame activity after the end of combustion (EOC) inferred from the pressure trace. All these findings support the need for further investigations of flame propagation under conditions representative of CI engine geometries, such as those in this study.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Ferguson, C. R. , and Kirkpatrick, A. T. , 2016, Internal Combustion Engines: Applied Thermosciences, 3rd ed., Wiley, Chichester, UK. [PubMed] [PubMed]
Atobiloye, R. Z. , and Britter, R. E. , 1994, “ On Flame Propagation along Vortex Tubes,” Combust. Flame, 98(3), pp. 220–230. [CrossRef]
U.S. DOE, 2017, “Natural Gas Vehicles,” U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Washington, DC, accessed May 4, 2017, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/natural_gas.html
U.S. EIA, 2016, “Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO 2016),” U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC, Report No. DOE/EIA-0383, accessed May 04, 2017, https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2016).pdf
U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, 2017, “Natural Gas Fueling Station Locations,” U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Washington, DC, accessed May 04, 2017, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/natural_gas_locations.html
Liss, W. E. , Thrasher, W. H. , Steinmetz, G. F. , Chowdiah, P. , and Attari, A. , 1992, “Variability of Natural Gas Composition in Select Major Metropolitan Areas of the United States,” Institute of Gas Technology, Chicago, IL, Report No. GRI-92/0123.
Yavuz, I. , Celik, I. , and McMillian, M. H. , 2001, “Knock Prediction in Reciprocating Gas-Engines Using Detailed Chemical Kinetics,” SAE Paper No. 2001-01-1012.
Eisazadeh-Far, K. , Parsinejad, F. , Metghalchi, H. , and Keck, J. C. , 2010, “ On Flame Kernel Formation and Propagation in Premixed Gases,” Combust. Flame, 157(12), pp. 2211–2221. [CrossRef]
McTaggart-Cowan, G. , Mann, K. , Wu, N. , and Munshi, S. , 2014, “ An Efficient Direct-Injection of Natural Gas Engine for Heavy Duty Vehicles,” SAE Paper No. 2014-01-1332.
Dronniou, N. , Kashdan, J. , Lecointe, B. , Sauve, K. , and Soleri, D. , 2014, “ Optical Investigation of Dual-Fuel CNG/Diesel Combustion Strategies to Reduce CO2 Emissions,” SAE Int. J. Engines, 7(2), pp. 873–887. [CrossRef]
Dahodwala, M. , Joshi, S. , Koehler, E. , Franke, M. , and Tomazic, D. , 2015, “ Experimental and Computational Analysis of Diesel-Natural Gas RCCI Combustion in Heavy-Duty Engines,” SAE Paper No. 2015-01-0849.
Andreassi, L. , Cordiner, S. , Mulone, V. , Reynolds, C. , and Evans, R. L. , 2005, “ A Mixed Numerical-Experimental Analysis for the Development of a Partially Stratified Compressed Natural Gas Engine,” SAE Paper No. 2005-24-029.
Reynolds, C. C. O. , Evans, R. L. , Andreassi, L. , Cordiner, S. , and Mulone, V. , 2005, “ The Effect of Varying the Injected Charge Stoichiometry in a Partially Stratified Charge Natural Gas Engine,” SAE Paper No. 2005-01-0247.
Beretta, G. P. , Rashidi, M. , and Keck, J. C. , 1983, “ Turbulent Flame Propagation and Combustion in Spark Ignition Engines,” Combust. Flame, 52, pp. 217–245. [CrossRef]
Geiger, J. , Pischinger, S. , Böwing, R. , Koß, H.-J. , and Thiemann, J. , 1999, “ Ignition Systems for Highly Diluted Mixtures in Si-Engines,” SAE Paper No. 1999-01-0799.
Melaika, M. , and Dahlander, P. , 2016, “ Experimental Investigation of Methane Direct Injection With Stratified Charge Combustion in Optical Si Single Cylinder Engine,” SAE Paper No. 2016-01-0797.
Wang, Y. , Zhang, J. , Wang, X. , Dice, P. , Shahbakhti, M. , Naber, J. , Czekala, M. , Qu, Q. , and Huberts, G. , 2017, “ Investigation of Impacts of Spark Plug Orientation on Early Flame Development and Combustion in a DI Optical Engine,” SAE Int. J. Engines, 10(3), pp. 995–1010.
Keck, J. C. , 1982, “ Turbulent Flame Structure and Speed in Spark-Ignition Engines,” Symp. (Int.) Combust., 19(1), pp. 1451–1466. [CrossRef]
Heywood, J. B. , 1988, Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Rahim, F. , Elia, M. , Ulinski, M. , and Metghalchi, M. , 2002, “ Burning Velocity Measurements of Methane-Oxygen-Argon Mixtures and an Application to Extend Methane-Air Burning Velocity Measurements,” Int. J. Engine Res., 3(2), pp. 81–92. [CrossRef]
Bradley, D. , Gaskell, P. H. , and Gu, X. J. , 1996, “ Burning Velocities, Markstein Lengths, and Flame Quenching for Spherical Methane-Air Flames: A Computational Study,” Combust. Flame, 104(1–2), pp. 176–198. [CrossRef]
Sinibaldi, J. O. , Driscoll, J. F. , Mueller, C. J. , Donbar, J. M. , and Carter, C. D. , 2003, “ Propagation Speeds and Stretch Rates Measured Along Wrinkled Flames to Assess the Theory of Flame Stretch,” Combust. Flame, 133(3), pp. 323–334. [CrossRef]
Egolfopoulos, F. N. , Hansen, N. , Ju, Y. , Kohse-Höinghaus, K. , Law, C. K. , and Qi, F. , 2014, “ Advances and Challenges in Laminar Flame Experiments and Implications for Combustion Chemistry,” Prog. Energy Combust. Sci., 43, pp. 36–67. [CrossRef]
Bradley, D. , Hicks, R. A. , Lawes, M. , Sheppard, C. G. W. , and Woolley, R. , 1998, “ The Measurement of Laminar Burning Velocities and Markstein Numbers for Iso-Octane–Air and Iso-Octane–N-Heptane–Air Mixtures at Elevated Temperatures and Pressures in an Explosion Bomb,” Combust. Flame, 115(1–2), pp. 126–144. [CrossRef]
Gu, X. J. , Haq, M. Z. , Lawes, M. , and Woolley, R. , 2000, “ Laminar Burning Velocity and Markstein Lengths of Methane–Air Mixtures,” Combust. Flame, 121(1–2), pp. 41–58. [CrossRef]


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

WVU's heavy-duty single-cylinder research engine

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Sample FL image data, including (a) raw image, (b) image with background noise extracted, (c) binary image, and (d) flame edge. Piston-bowl edge is visible in (a). The spark plug is in the middle of the black circular mask shown in (b), (c), and (d).

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

In-cylinder pressure traces (thin lines) and the mean pressure trace (thick line)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Apparent heat release rate (top) and the cumulative heat release (bottom). Thin and thick lines indicate individual cycles and their mean, respectively.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Equivalent flame radius for all imaged cycles

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

In-cylinder visualized area. The white area inside the bowl indicates the flame location.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Mean equivalent flame radius for all imaged cycles for the two methods used to synchronize images with the pressure trace. The mean was calculated after the radii in Fig. 4 were aligned to the same 0.5% MFB start. The error bars on case 1 show the measurement standard deviation.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 12

Mean total pixel intensity inside the piston bowl for case 1. The location of 0.5%, 5%, and 98% MFB is also shown.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 11

Mean expansion speed of the burned gas, ub, and the mean gas speed just ahead of the flame front, ug. Top figure shows the standard deviation of the calculation for case 1.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 10

Burned gas Markstein length for all imaged cycles for the two methods used to synchronize images with the pressure trace. The error bars on case 1 show the standard deviation of the calculation.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Laminar and mean burning flame speed (top) and their ratio (bottom). The error bars on case 1 show the standard deviation of the calculation.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Flame propagation in individual cycles and cycle-averaged. The external black circle and the white dot in the middle of each figure indicate the piston bowl edge and spark plug location, respectively. Starting from the center of the image, the black, blue, red, green, and magenta lines (i.e., the thicker lines) show the flame location associated with 0.5%, 1%, 1.5%, 2%, and 5% MFB, respectively. While individual cycles show expected flame curvature, the cycle-averaged figure supports the assumption of a spherically propagating flame.



Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In