Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

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

Administrative Home Department

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor 1

Jeffrey Naber

Committee Member 1

Dean Tomazic

Committee Member 2

Mahdi Shahbhakti

Committee Member 3

Darrell Robinette


Among the various alternative fuels, natural gas is considered as a leading candidate for heavy-duty applications due to its availability and applicability in conventional internal combustion diesel engines. Compared to their diesel counterparts natural gas fueled spark-ignited engines have a lower power density, reduced low-end torque capability, limited altitude performance, and ammonia emissions downstream of the three-way catalyst. The dual fuel diesel/natural gas engine does not suffer with the performance limitations of the spark-ignited concept due to the flexibility of switching between different fueling modes. Considerable research has already been conducted to understand the combustion behavior of dual fuel diesel/natural gas engines. As reported by most researchers, the major difficulty with dual fuel operation is the challenge of providing high levels of natural gas substitution, especially at low and medium loads.

In this study extensive experimental and simulation studies were conducted to understand the combustion behavior of a heavy-duty diesel engine when operated with compressed natural gas (CNG) in a dual fuel regime. In one of the experimental studies, conducted on a 13 liter heavy-duty six cylinder diesel engine with a compression ratio of 16.7:1, it was found that at part loads high levels of CNG substitution could be achieved along with very low NOx and PM emissions by applying reactivity controlled compression ignition (RCCI) combustion. When compared to the diesel-only baseline, a 75% reduction in both NOx and PM emissions was observed at a 5 bar BMEP load point along with comparable fuel consumption values.

Further experimental studies conducted on the 13 liter heavy-duty six cylinder diesel engine have shown that RCCI combustion targeting low NOx emissions becomes progressively difficult to control as the load is increased at a given speed or the speed is reduced at a given load. To overcome these challenges a number of simulation studies were conducted to quantify the in-cylinder conditions that are needed at high loads and low to medium engine speeds to effectively control low NOx RCCI combustion. A number of design parameters were analyzed in this study including exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) rate, CNG substitution, injection strategy, fuel injection pressure, fuel spray angle and compression ratio. The study revealed that lowering the compression ratio was very effective in controlling low NOx RCCI combustion. By lowering the base compression ratio by 4 points, to 12.7:1, a low NOx RCCI combustion was achieved at both 12 bar and 20 bar BMEP load points. The NOx emissions were reduced by 75% at 12 bar BMEP while fuel consumption was improved by 5.5%. For the 20 BMEP case, a 2% improvement in fuel consumption was achieved with an 87.5% reduction in NOx emissions. At both load points low PM emissions were observed with RCCI combustion.

A low NOx RCCI combustion system has multiple advantages over other combustion approaches, these include; significantly lower NOx and PM emission which allows a reduction in aftertreatment cost and packaging requirements along with application of higher CNG substitution rates resulting in reduced CO2 emissions.