Influence of Internal Geometry on Pre-chamber Combustion Concept in a Lean Burn Natural Gas Engine

  • Ponnya Hlaing

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The road transport sector, dominated by internal combustion engines, accounts for as high as 23% of annual carbon emissions and is considered the major area where urgent carbon reduction strategies are required. Natural gas is considered one of the intermediate fuels to reduce carbon emissions before net carbon neutral solutions can be achieved. Methane (CH4), a major constituent of natural gas, has the highest hydrogen-to-carbon ratio among the naturally occurring hydrocarbons, and the CO2 emission from natural gas combustion is around 25% less than diesel combustion. Lean combustion shows promises for improved engine efficiency, thereby reducing carbon emissions for a given required power output. However, igniting lean natural gas mixtures requires high ignition energy, beyond the capability of spark ignition. The pre-chamber combustion (PCC) concept can provide the required ignition energy with relatively simple components. While most pre-chamber designs found in the literature are bulky and require extensive cylinder head modifications or complete engine redesign, the narrow-throat pre-chamber design can readily fit the diesel injector pockets of most heavy-duty engines without the need for substantial hardware modifications. The unique pre-chamber design is significantly different from the contemporary pre-chamber geometries, and its engine combustion phenomena and operating characteristics are largely unknown. This thesis work investigates the effect of important pre-chamber dimensions, such as the volume, nozzle hole diameter, and throat diameter, on the engine operating characteristics and emission trends. The experiments focus on the lean operation with excess air ratios (λ) exceeding 1.6, which can be achieved by auxiliary fuel injection into the pre-chamber. The air-fuel mixture formation process inside the pre-chamber is also investigated by employing 1-D and 3-D CFD simulations, where the engine experiments provided the boundary conditions. From the simulation results, a correlation between the injected and the trapped fuel in the pre-chamber is proposed by theoretical scavenging models to estimate the air-fuel ratio in the pre-chamber with high accuracy. Although the studies largely rely on thermodynamic engine experiments, the 1-D engine simulation implements the engine studies in estimating the mixture composition and heat transfer losses from the engine.
Date of AwardAug 23 2022
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorJames Turner (Supervisor)


  • Pre-chamber
  • Jet Ignition
  • Turbulent Jet Ignition
  • Internal Combustion Engines
  • Lean Premixed Combustion

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