Date of Graduation
To meet the ignition system needs of large bore, high pressure, lean burn, natural gas engines a side pumped, passively Q-switched, Nd:YAG laser was developed and tested. The laser was designed to produce the optical intensities needed to initiate ignition in a lean burn, high compression engine. The laser and associated optics were designed with a passive Q-switch to eliminate the need for high voltage signaling and associated equipment. The laser was diode pumped to eliminate the need for high voltage flash lamps which have poor pumping efficiency. The independent and dependent parameters of the laser were identified and explored in specific combinations that produced consistent robust sparks in laboratory air. Prior research has shown that increasing gas pressure lowers the breakdown threshold for laser initiated ignition. The laser has an overall geometry of 57x57x152 mm with an output beam diameter of approximately 3 mm. The experimentation used a wide range of optical and electrical input parameters that when combined produced ignition in laboratory air. The results show a strong dependence of the output parameters on the output coupler reflectivity, Q-switch initial transmission, and gain media dopant concentration. As these three parameters were lowered the output performance of the laser increased leading to larger more brilliant sparks. The results show peak power levels of up to 3MW and peak focal intensities of up to 560 GW/cm2. Engine testing was performed on a Ricardo Proteus single cylinder research engine. The goal of the engine testing was to show that the test laser performs identically to the commercially available flashlamp pumped actively Q-switched laser used in previous laser ignition testing. The engine testing consisted of a comparison of the in-cylinder, and emissions behavior of the engine using each of the lasers as an ignition system. All engine parameters were kept as constant as possilbe while the equivalence ratio (fueling), and hence the engine load, was varied between 0.8, 0.9, and 1.0. The test laser was constructed with a 30% output coupler, 32% Q-switch initial transmission, and a 0.5% Nd concentration rod all pumped by approximately 1000 Watts of optical power. The test laser single mode output pulse had an energy of approximately 23 mJ, with a pulsewidth of approximately 10 ns, and an M2 value of 6.55. This output produced focal intensity of approximately 270 GW/cm2 with the modified on-engine optical arrangement. The commercial laser had similar output parameters and both laser systems operated the engine with similar results. Due to the shortening of the focal length of the on-engine optical setup both laser systems produced a spark well within the optical transfer cavity of the laser optics to spark plug adaptor. This shrouded spark led to a very long ignition delay and retarded combustion timing for all three values of equivalence ratio. This was evidenced by the in-cylinder pressure traces and the HRR waveforms. The emissions data indicate that both lasers produced very similar combustion. The ignition delay caused by the shrouded spark cause most of the combustion to happen after TDC which lead to poor combustion that produced high levels of CO and THC. The novelty of this work lies in the combination of the laser parameters to create a single high peak power laser output pulse for use as a spark ignition source. Similar configurations have been investigated in the literature but for different applications such as multiple output pulse trains for various industrial and communications applications. Another point of novelty is the investigation of the laser medium concentration on the output characteristics of a passively Q-switched laser system. This work has shown that lowering the Neodymium concentration in the active media within a passively Q-switched laser produces higher output energy values. This is significant because an actively Q-switched laser shows the opposite affect when the active ion concentration is varied.
McIntyre, Dustin L., "A laser spark plug ignition system for a stationary lean-burn natural gas reciprocating engine." (2007). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 9394.