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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

First Advisor

Seong-Young Lee


This dissertation represents experimental and numerical investigations of combustion initiation trigged by electrical-discharge-induced plasma within lean and dilute methane air mixture. This research topic is of interest due to its potential to further promote the understanding and prediction of spark ignition quality in high efficiency gasoline engines, which operate with lean and dilute fuel-air mixture.

It is specified in this dissertation that the plasma to flame transition is the key process during the spark ignition event, yet it is also the most complicated and least understood procedure. Therefore the investigation is focused on the overlapped periods when plasma and flame both exists in the system.

Experimental study is divided into two parts. Experiments in Part I focuses on the flame kernel resulting from the electrical discharge. A number of external factors are found to affect the growth of the flame kernel, resulting in complex correlations between discharge and flame kernel. Heat loss from the flame kernel to code ambient is found to be a dominant factor that quenches the flame kernel. Another experimental focus is on the plasma channel. Electrical discharges into gases induce intense and highly transient plasma. Detailed observation of the size and contents of the discharge-induced plasma channel is performed.

Given the complex correlation and the multi-discipline physical/chemical processes involved in the plasma-flame transition, the modeling principle is taken to reproduce detailed transitions numerically with minimum analytical assumptions. Detailed measurement obtained from experimental work facilitates the more accurate description of initial reaction conditions. The novel and unique spark source considering both energy and species deposition is defined in a justified manner, which is the key feature of this Ignition by Plasma (IBP) model.

The results of numerical simulation are intuitive and the potential of numerical simulation to better resolve the complex spark ignition mechanism is presented. Meanwhile, imperfections of the IBP model and numerical simulation have been specified and will address future attentions.