A study of mixture formation in a lean burn research engine using laser fluorescence imaging
Lean burn in spark-ignition engines offers a significant efficiency advantage compared with stoichiometric operation. The lean operation is restricted by increasing cyclic fluctuation in torque. In order to make use of the efficiency advantage and meet the mandatory emission standards the lean operation limit has to be further extended. This requires particular control of the mixing of fuel and air. To study the effect of mixture formation on cyclic variability and to provide quantitative information on the mixing of air and fuel planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) was developed and applied to an operating SI engine. The method is based on imaging the fluorescence of a fluorescent marker (3-pentanone) mixed with the fuel (iso-octane). 3-pentanone was found to have similar vaporisation characteristics to those of iso-octane as well as low absorption and suitable spectral properties. The technique was applied to an one-cylinder SI engine with a cylinder head configuration based on the Honda VTEC-E lean burn system. The mixture formation process during the inlet and compression stroke could be described by measuring the average fuel concentration in four planes, between 0.7 and 15.2 mm below the spark plug, in a section of the cylinder orthogonal to the cylinder axis. The results showed that for 4-valve pent-roof cylinder head systems with swirl inlet flows, fuel impinging on the cylinder wall opposite to the inlet valves has a major influence on the mixture formation process. In order to quantify the cyclic variability in the mixture formation process and its contribution to cyclic variability in combustion the fuel concentration in a plane near the spark plug was measured on a large number of cycles. It could be shown, that the fuel concentration in a small region close to the spark plug has a dominating effect on the subsequent pressure development for lean mixtures. Variations in the mixture concentration in the vicinity of the spark plug contribute significantly to cyclic variations in combustion. In order to address the issue of no uniformity in residual gas concentration prior to ignition a laser induced fluorescence method was developed to measure nitric oxide (NO) concentrations in the unburned charge in the same one-cylinder research engine. Measurements of average and instantaneous NO concentrations revealed, that the residual gas is not homogeneously mixed with the air and that significant cyclic variations in the local residual gas concentration exist.