An experimental and modeling study investigating the ignition delay in a military diesel engine running hexadecane (cetane) fuel

Jim S. Cowart*, Warren P. Fischer, Leonard J. Hamilton, Patrick A. Caton, S. Mani Sarathy, William J. Pitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In an effort aimed at predicting the combustion behavior of a new fuel in a conventional diesel engine, cetane (n-hexadecane) fuel was used in a military engine across the entire speed-load operating range. The ignition delay was characterized for this fuel at each operating condition. A chemical ignition delay was also predicted across the speed-load range using a detailed chemical kinetic mechanism with a constant pressure reactor model. At each operating condition, the measured in-cylinder pressure and predicted temperature at the start of injection were applied to the detailed nhexadecane kinetic mechanism, and the chemical ignition delay was predicted without any kinetic mechanism calibration. The modeling results show that fuel-air parcels developed from the diesel spray with an equivalence ratio of 4 are the first to ignite. The chemical ignition delay results also showed decreasing igntion delays with increasing engine load and speed, just as the experimental data revealed. At lower engine speeds and loads, the kinetic modeling results show the characteristic two-stage negative temperature coefficient behavior of hydrocarbon fuels. However, at high engine speeds and loads, the reactions do not display negative temperature coefficient behavior, as the reactions proceed directly into high-temperature pathways due to higher temperatures and pressure at injection. A moderate difference between the total and chemical ignition delays was then characterized as a phyical delay period that scales inversely with engine speed. This physical delay time is representative of the diesel spray development time and is seen to become a minority fraction of the total igntion delay at higher engine speeds. The approach used in this study suggests that the ignition delay and thus start of combustion may be predicted with reasonable accuracy using kinetic modeling to determine the chemical igntion delay. Then, in conjunction with the physical delay time (experimental or modeling based), a new fuel's acceptability in a conventional engine could be assessed by determining that the total ignition delay is not too short or too long.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Engine Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Cetane
  • Combustion kinetics
  • Diesel
  • Engine
  • Fuel
  • Hexadecane
  • Ignition delay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Automotive Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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