To gain further insight into the cause(s) of the biodiesel NOx increase, experiments were conducted in a single-cylinder version of a heavy-duty diesel engine with extensive optical access to the combustion chamber. The engine was operated using two biodiesel fuels and two hydrocarbon reference fuels, over a wide range of loads, and using undiluted air as well as air diluted with simulated exhaust gas recirculation. Measurements were made of cylinder pressure, spatially integrated natural luminosity (a measure of radiative heat transfer), engine-out emissions of NOx and smoke, flame lift-off length, actual start of injection, ignition delay, and efficiency. Adiabatic flame temperatures for the test fuels and a surrogate #2 diesel fuel also were computed at representative diesel-engine conditions.
Results suggest that the biodiesel NOx increase is not quantitatively determined by a change in a single fuel property, but rather is the result of a number of coupled mechanisms whose effects may tend to reinforce or cancel one another under different conditions, depending on specific combustion and fuel characteristics. Nevertheless, charge-gas mixtures that are closer to stoichiometric at ignition and in the standing premixed autoignition zone near the flame liftoff length appear to be key factors in helping to explain the biodiesel NOx increase under all conditions. These differences are expected to lead to higher local and average in-cylinder temperatures, lower radiative heat losses, and a shorter, more-advanced combustion event, all of which would be expected to increase thermal NOx emissions. Differences in prompt NO formation and species concentrations resulting from fuel and jet-structure changes also may play important roles.