Experimental Studies of Spark-Ignition Knock in a Novel Dedicated Test Engine

  • Hao Shi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Recently, some new technologies (e.g., downsizing, turbocharging) have been widely used in spark-ignition (SI) engines to achieve higher efficiencies and less emissions. However, the improved power density and in-cylinder pressure promote more engine knock, causing violent pressure oscillations and threatening engine integrity. Therefore, it is imperative to study engine knocking combustion more than ever; In-depth understandings of knock mechanism and characteristics are of utmost importance for controlling knock. With this emphasis, this thesis implements systematic studies to bridge the gap between knocking combustion characteristics and knock suppressing strategies. To investigate knock with optical and laser diagnostics, an optical compression-ignition (CI) engine was modified to operate under SI mode. A home-made metal liner with multiple spark plugs was used to trigger more controllable knock events via different spark strategies. Up to six pressure sensors were installed to collect the pressure signals from different sides. Next, the relationships between in-cylinder pressure, knock intensity, pressure fluctuation, heat release, and measurement location are analyzed to study the knock mechanism, influential factors, and measurement methods. The findings indicate a trade-off between the mass fraction and temperature of end-gas. The effects of compression ratio and fuel octane number are also explored. Moreover, the multichannel pressure monitoring is synchronized with high-speed imaging to investigate the flame propagation and knock development processes regarding the different spark strategies. The results give insights into the in-cylinder temperature inhomogeneity and how it affects the spatial distribution of auto-ignition sites. Furthermore, a new method is proposed to detect the local pressure fluctuations by setting a series of virtual flame monitors instead of pressure sensors. The results validate that this method provides a convenient and reliable way to study knock oscillations. Finally, this study presents a hydraulically actuated VCR (variable compression ratio) piston design to address knock challenges. The numerical simulation results show this VCR piston has a good adaptability and could help achieve high engine efficiencies, while keeping reasonable peak pressure to avoid heavy knock at high loads. However, more analysis work still needs to be implemented on its practical applications, e.g., the thermal stress and frictions under different operating conditions.
Date of AwardFeb 2022
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorJames Turner (Supervisor)


  • Knocking combustion
  • Optical diagnostics
  • Multiple spark ignition
  • Pressure oscillation
  • Measurement method
  • Variable compression ratio

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