Compressed natural gas (CNG) has great potential as an alternative fuel for vehicle engines, and can reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. A single cylinder research engine has been modified to enable direct injection of a small quantity of fuel near the spark plug, independently of an overall lean homogeneous charge. Thus a partially stratified charge is formed within the chamber, which allows significant extension of the lean limit of combustion. This results in an improvement in specific fuel consumption. Numerical simulation also plays an important role in the development of such technological solutions. 3D simulations, in particular, are desirable to provide complete information about thermal and fluid dynamical fields within the chamber. In particular, among the developed numerical tools linked to the KIVA-3V code, special attention was dedicated to the formulation of the combustion model (CFM) turbulent combustion model based on the flamelet hypothesis), to adequately model non-homogeneities and lean mixture compositions. In this paper an optimization procedure is assessed, with the ultimate goal of designing combustion chambers properly devoted to be operated under lean (homogeneous and PSC) mixture conditions. The results related to the procedure definition and to its experimental validation are presented. Experimental and numerical data have been compared in terms of pressure cycles and heat release rate profiles. The overall results are encouraging, taking into special account the difficulty to reliably predict the key performance parameters without any “tuning interventions”, even when mixture richness and homogeneity were varied.

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