A database of information concerning the spray development and pollutant formation in common-rail, direct-injection Diesel engine is constructed using a transparent model Diesel engine. Spray development is investigated using optical diagnostics: Mie scattering and Laser Induced Exciplex Fluorescence (LIEF) make possible qualitative visualization of liquid and vapor phases. The injection pressure/nozzle hole diameter is found to be the most important parameter (in the parameter range used for the study): it reduces the liquid penetration length and improves the mixing of vapor fuel. Direct imaging of combustion development shows the influence of different engine parameters on flame location. Comparison with measured vapor distributions shows the effect of thermal expansion on the vapor plume before any light from combustion is visible. Soot formation is investigated using Laser Induced Incandescence imaging. It is found that the maximum local concentration of soot during combustion decreases with an increase in EGR rate. This effect is opposed to the increase in exhaust concentration of soot. Finally the effects of parameter variations on the injection and combustion processes are discussed in details.