Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Mridul Gautam.


A study was conducted in order to evaluate the external thermal and vibrational effects on the operation of a laser ignition system for internal combustion (IC) engine applications. West Virginia University (WVU) in conjunction with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have constructed a prototype laser spark plug which has been designed to mount directly onto the head of a natural gas engine for the purpose of igniting an air/fuel (A/F) mixture in the engine's combustion chamber. To be considered as a viable replacement for the conventional electrode-based ignition system, integrity, durability and reliability must be justified. Thermal and oscillatory perturbations induced upon the ignition system are major influences that affect laser spark plug (LSP) operation and, therefore, quantifying these effects is necessary to further the advancement and development of this technology.;The passively q-switched Nd:YAG laser was mounted on Bruel & Kjaer (B&K) Vibration Exciter Type 4808 Shaker in conjunction with at B&K Power Amplifier Type 2719, which was oscillated in 10 Hz intervals from 0 to 60 Hz using a sine wave to mimic natural gas engine operation. The input signal simulated the rotational velocity of the engine operating from 0 to 3600 RPM with the laser mounted in three different axial orientations. The laser assembly was wrapped with medium-temperature heat tape, outfitted with thermocouples and heated from room temperature to 140 ºF to simulate the temperatures that the LSP may experience when installed on an engine. The acceleration of the payload was varied between 50% and 100% of the oscillator's maximum allowable acceleration in each mounting orientation resulting in a total of 294 total setpoints.;For each setpoint, pulse width, pulse width variation, q-switch delay, jitter and output energy were measured and recorded. Each of these dependent variables plays a critical role in multi photon ionization and precise control is necessary to limit the variability of these key parameters. Under the influence of thermal and oscillatory perturbations, the q-switch delay of the laser was found to vary significantly. For application on an IC engine, such variation in qswitch delay would result in an ignition timing variation by as much as +/-4.6 crank angle (CA) degrees in the most extreme setpoint on a cycle-to-cycle basis. Every setpoint tested was calculated to be capable of generating a plasma spark in air (>100 GW/cm2), however the resulting focal intensity was found to vary by as much as +/-13 GW/cm2.