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Effect of Injection Timing on Performance, Emission and Combustion

Characteristics of a Common-Rail Diesel Engine Fuelled with Coconut Oil
Methyl Ester

Article  in  SAE Technical Papers · October 2013

DOI: 10.4271/2013-01-2663


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5 authors, including:

How Heoy Geok H.H. Masjuki

University of Malaya University of Malaya


M. A. Kalam Yew Heng Teoh

University of Malaya University of Malaya


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RSC Advances

Effect of injection timing and EGR on engine-out-

responses of a common-rail diesel engine fueled
Cite this: RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080
with neat biodiesel
Y. H. Teoh,*ab H. H. Masjuki,*a M. A. Kalama and H. G. Howa

Nowadays, diesel-powered engines are becoming attractive worldwide due to their superior fuel economy,
higher efficiency and excellent reliability. Biodiesel can be considered as the most promising and in demand
alternative fuel because it is a non-toxic, biodegradable and renewable fuel. This work attempts to
simultaneously reduce the BSNOx and smoke from the levels of fossil diesel by using palm methyl ester
(PME) biodiesel. In addition, this paper describes the conversion of a common-rail injection system with
a custom-made electronic control system, focusing on hardware development, the engine control unit
and fuel delivery system development. Parametric studies dealing with injection timing and exhaust gas
recirculation (EGR) variation using neat palm biodiesel were performed and compared with baseline
diesel. The tests were performed at a constant speed and load of 1500 rpm and 0.4 MPa, respectively.
Firstly, the start of injection (SOI) timing was varied from TDC to 25 ATDC to demonstrate the flexible
control of the custom-made engine controller. Later, the SOI timing was kept at an optimum of 11
ATDC and the EGR rates were adjusted (i.e. 0–50%). The experimental results indicated that both the
injection timing and EGR variation had a prominent effect on the engine performance, emissions and
combustion characteristics for an engine operating with baseline diesel or neat biodiesel. Based on the
highest brake thermal efficiency (BTE) and a reasonable NOx level, the optimum injection timing is found
to be at 11 ATDC for both the baseline diesel and biodiesel operation. A wider range of EGR rates from
0% to 50% were investigated to bring down the NOx levels from the EURO II limit to meet with more
Received 26th July 2015
Accepted 22nd October 2015
stringent EURO limits. It was found that with the PME fuel, engine operation at 30% EGR resulted in the
optimum trade-off between BSNOx and smoke emissions. In fact, simultaneous BSNOx and smoke
DOI: 10.1039/c5ra14831f
reduction from the levels of fossil diesel is possible with the use of PME biodiesels in parallel with the implementation of late SOI timing or a higher EGR rate in diesel engines.

produced from straight vegetable oils, edible and non-edible

1. Introduction plants, recycled waste cooking oils, and animal fat through
Environmental protection, energy efficiency and conservation the transesterication process.1,2 Furthermore, biodiesel can be
have become important issues in recent decades because of the exibly used in compression ignition (CI) engines without
rapid depletion of fossil fuel reserves, the rising price of crude modication of the engine or fueling process, thus greatly
oil, and environmental degradation. This energy crisis has simplifying the system integration and adoption of its use.3,4
triggered a revolution in the use of alternative fuels that are However, biodiesel poses some variations in its physiochemical
environmentally acceptable, economically viable, domestically properties than fossil diesel fuel, such as cetane number,
available and technically feasible for internal combustion (IC) heating value, viscosity, density, cloud points, pour points, etc.
engine applications. Among the various alternative fuels, bio- The combined effects of these properties strongly affect injec-
diesel is a prominent fuel that has immense potential to meet tion characteristics, air–fuel mixing and the atomization of
the world’s energy demands and facilitate the reduction of biodiesel fuel in diesel engines. Insufficient in-cylinder air
harmful pollutant emissions. Biodiesel is a renewable, motion, poor atomization and low volatility of biodiesel lead to
nontoxic, biodegradable and oxygenated fuel. It can be the lower thermal efficiency, poorer combustion and higher
emissions of biodiesel-fueled diesel engines. In general,
engines fueled with biodiesel have reduced emissions such as
Centre for Energy Sciences, Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya, 50603, carbon monoxide (CO), smoke, unburned hydrocarbons (HC),
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. E-mail:;;
volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the overall life cycle
Fax: +60 3 79674448; Tel: +60 3 79674448
School of Mechanical Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Engineering Campus,
emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). However, despite the
14300 Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia potential merits of reducing these pollutants, numerous studies

96080 | RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015
Paper RSC Advances

revealed that the NOx emissions will be increased with the use EGR levels (5–25%) and engine load on a single-cylinder engine
of biodiesel.5–8 and found that biodiesel emitted more smoke at lower loads
and less smoke at higher loads when compared to diesel fuel.
Tsolakis et al.21 found that the use of biodiesel fuel could reduce
1.1. Strategies to improve diesel engine pollutant emissions the smoke and NOx from a single-cylinder engine equipped with
In CI engines, the majority of studies on the comparisons EGR (i.e. 10% and 20%) under certain engine conditions when
between diesel and biodiesel have been based on the standard compared to diesel. FOME (sh oil methyl ester) and its blends
setting of an engine using fossil diesel fuel. Also, it is generally have been tested in a diesel engine by Bhaskar et al.22 They show
agreed upon that the formulation of fuel composition can that a blend fuel with 20% vol of FOME produces nearly the
enhance the biodiesel combustion performance and tailpipe same brake thermal efficiency with lower unburned hydro-
emissions. However, the experimental results indicated that it carbon, carbon monoxide and soot emissions, but higher NOx
was not easy to keep NOx emissions neutral while reducing emissions compared to diesel fuel. They found that NOx emis-
other pollutants simply through fuel reformulation.9–12 There- sions can be reduced with the use of EGR. EGR ow-rates of
fore, modication of the engine operating parameters such as 10%, 20% and 30% were examined in their study. The authors
injection strategies and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) may be suggested that a 20% EGR ow rate is optimum for a 20% FOME
possible to optimize the engine emissions due to the difference blend considering the emissions of NOx and soot.
in combustion characteristics and chemical composition
between diesel and biodiesel. In a diesel engine, improvements
in the fuel injection parameters can be employed to reduce 1.2. Diesel engine modications
engine emissions and improve the fuel economy. Injection The conventional problems of the mechanical type pump-line-
parameters such as injection pressure, injection duration, nozzle injection system with xed injection timing is well-
injection timing, and fueling are the key injection parameters known, with their low combustion efficiency and high exhaust
which can signicantly affect the performance and emissions of emissions. The conventional injection system leaves little room
an engine. For instance, the combustion efficiency and ignition for engine performance optimization to be tailored to biodiesel
delay will change as the injection timing is varied because of the fuels since the injection process, controlled by the camsha, is
effect of mixture formation.13 Numerous studies revealed that dependent on the engine speed. In a CI diesel engine, the fuel
injection timing retardation reduces NOx emissions.14–16 With injection system (including the injection nozzles and pump)
late injection timing, the peak cylinder pressure decreases and plays a vital role because it directly affects the performance of
results in lower peak combustion temperatures and conse- the engine. Several desired demands are: higher injection
quently, NOx emissions diminish. Conversely, advancing the pressure, optimized injection rate, higher precision of injection
injection timing decreases HC and CO emissions. In another timing control, and higher precision of injection quantity
study,17 the effect of injection timing on the performance, control, which could signicantly affect the mixture formation
combustion and emission parameters was investigated in and combustion quality of the engine. In fact, all of these
a single cylinder, mechanical pump-line-nozzle injection injection system parameters must be controllable especially for
system using algal oil methyl ester (AOME) blended fuels (i.e. 5, alternative fuel research studies. Generally, commercially
10, & 20% blend). The test result revealed that the advancement available single-cylinder engines are equipped with a mechan-
in injection timing of 5 CAD from the rated static injection ical fuel injection system and most of the injection parameters
timing of 345 CAD caused a reduction in brake specic fuel cannot be readily changed. Utilizing electronically controlled
consumption, HC, CO and smoke, and increase the combustion fuel injection through a common-rail injection system instead
pressure, heat release rate, brake mean effective pressure of the conventional mechanical injection permits the contin-
(BMEP) and NOx emissions. In another related study, Gana- uous control of injection timing and injection quantity to a high
pathy et al.18 have demonstrated an improvement in engine level of precision. This technology also offers the highest levels
performance and emission when the fuel injection pressure and of exibility for the control of both the injection timing and
injection timing were optimized for Jatropha biodiesel opera- injection amount, while still yielding signicantly better results
tion. The experiment was conducted in a single-cylinder diesel than any conventional injection system. For engines equipped
engine that was equipped with a mechanical pump-nozzle with common-rail injection technology, the fuel injectors are
injection system. The fuel injection timing was varied with a 5 typically ECU controlled. There are various studies focused on
degree crank angle on either side of the rated static injection the conversion of mechanically controlled fuel injection
timing (345 CAD). Another effective approach to reduce the NOx systems to an electronic common-rail system and efforts are
from a petrol–diesel engine is by means of the EGR technique being made for the design of the engine controller unit. In the
which is a pretreatment approach. However, using EGR alone study of Ergenç et al.,23 the test engine which was initially
has some drawbacks in that it could reduce energy efficiency, equipped with mechanical injection has been modied and
operational stability and a trade-off in terms of soot emissions.19 converted into a test engine with a common-rail injection
In this regard, others have investigated the effects of combining system. All injectors (LPG and diesel) in their study were also
biodiesel and EGR. The general outcome from these studies was controlled by programmable logic controllers (PLC) which
that combining EGR and biodiesel was an effective strategy to served as an ECU for control applications. Likewise, in another
reduce NOx and/or PM.12 Pradeep and Sharma20 adjusted the study performed by Goldwine,24 a dedicated common-rail

This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015 RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 | 96081
RSC Advances Paper

injection single-cylinder air-cooled diesel engine was converted pressure, and number of injections in a cycle of operation,
from a mechanical injection design, and most of the parts of the which enables a more advanced combustion study. Usually, the
injection system were adopted from regular diesel engine parts. common-rail injection system can be found in multi-cylinder
A piezoelectric type injector was employed in their study and diesel engines used in passenger cars and trucks. However,
multiple data acquisition/control cards were used as an ECU for they are too large and complicated, and it is almost impossible
the control of fuel injection, injection pressure and engine load. to have full access to the stock ECU to recongure the injection
The soware was written in Labview and the algorithm imple- parameters. Besides, it is rare indeed that a commercially
mented closed loop control for the engine speed (through load available single-cylinder diesel engine is equipped with an
regulation) and fuel pressure. The piezoelectric injector used in electronically controlled fuel injection system largely due to the
their study has the ability to implement up to six injections per high cost of implementation. Considering that the major
cycle with various lengths and dwell times. advantages of the common-rail injection system are the
improvement in thermal efficiency, fuel economy, and cleaner
exhaust emissions compared to a conventional mechanical
1.3. Objectives of the paper system, its introduction in a single-cylinder diesel engine
As mentioned above, most of the previous studies into biodiesel should be an interesting idea. Therefore, a preliminary study on
fuel have been performed with conventional mechanical pump- injection timing optimization was carried out for both of the
line-nozzle fuel injection systems. The compressibility effects baseline diesel and PME fuels on a modied single-cylinder
due to the changes in the physical properties of biodiesel could engine test rig equipped with a high-pressure common-rail
potentially affect the fuel injection timing and this can increase injection system.
NOx. Using a common-rail injection system could eliminate this
issue because the fuel injection pressurization is not dependent
on the injection timing.25 Aside from the challenge of fuel
injection technology, other considerations like the cost- 2. Experimental apparatus and
effectiveness of biodiesel production is the new topic for procedure
debate. From an economic point of view, the use of the most
cost-effective biodiesel feedstock will pave the way for the large- 2.1. Biodiesel production process
scale production of biodiesel. By far, the three most common There are numerous ways to convert vegetable oil into biodiesel
available biodiesel feedstocks are palm oil (from Malaysia), fuel, such as pyrolysis, microemulsion, dilution, and trans-
soybean (from the US) and rapeseed (from the EU) and their esterication. Of these different conversion methods, the
production cost are USD $ 684, $751 and $ 996 a tonne, transesterication process is the most popular way and has
respectively.26 Apparently, the palm oil offers the most cost been extensively used to reduce the viscosity of crude vegetable
competitiveness and it is a viable biodiesel feedstock. Further- oil and convert triglycerides into esters and glycerol. Fig. 1
more, palm oil has been cited as a high-yield source of biodiesel shows the transesterication reaction of triglycerides. A catalyst
with an average yield of about 5950 litres per hectare, which is is typically employed to enhance the reaction rate and yield. As
nearly 13 times better than the yield of soybean oil.27 Consid- the reaction is reversible, excess alcohol is used to shi the
ering the cost and the promising yield of the feedstocks for equilibrium toward the product side (right side).
biodiesel production, biodiesel derived from palm oil is clearly In the present study, crude palm oil was transferred into
the most viable substitute for petroleum diesel fuel. Thus far, a preheated reactor at a temperature of 60  C. The oil was
most of the research about biodiesel, including the study of its reacted with 25% (v/v oil) methanol and 1% by weight of alkali
effect on engine performance, emissions and combustion catalyst (KOH). The reaction mixture was maintained at 60  C
characteristics, has been performed under relatively low EGR for 2 hours with stirring at the constant speed of 800 rpm. Aer
levels (i.e. <30%) and with an engine equipped with a conven- the completion of the reaction, the produced methyl esters were
tional pump-line-nozzle injection system. The engine-out- poured into a separation funnel for 24 hours to separate the
responses under higher EGR (>30%) conditions have not yet glycerol from the biodiesel. The lower layer, which consists of
been sufficiently investigated. In the case of palm biodiesel fuel, impurities and glycerin, was drawn off. Then, the methyl ester
it contains about 11.7% oxygen content in the fuel composition was washed with warm distilled water and evaporated with
and has a higher cetane number than petro-diesel,28 which gives a rotary evaporator at 65  C for 30 minutes to remove residual
great opportunities to optimize the engine performance and methanol and water. Lastly, the methyl ester was dried using
emissions under higher EGR levels. Consequently, there is
a strong motivation to investigate the impact of neat palm oil
methyl ester (PME) combustion in a diesel engine equipped
with a common-rail injection system with higher EGR rate.
Another motivation for this study is to develop a fully
controlled common-rail fuel injection single-cylinder diesel
engine for a wider range of renewable fuel research studies. As
discussed above, this system is able to provide exible control of
injection parameters such as injection timing, injection Fig. 1 Transesterification of triglycerides with alcohol.

96082 | RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015
Paper RSC Advances

Na2SO4 and ltered using qualitative lter paper to collect the inuences the engine performance, emissions, and combus-
nal product. tion characteristics is the cetane number of fuel. It can be
observed that PME has a higher cetane index than petroleum
2.2. Biodiesel property test diesel fuels. Distillation characteristics also have important
effects on engine combustion and performance. Typically, the
Upon the completion of the transesterication process, the fuel
distillation temperature is used as a quality check for fuel and
properties of the produced methyl ester were comprehensively
the distribution range provides an insight into the volatility,
examined and compared with the biodiesel standards. Table 1
ash point and fatty acid composition. Biodiesel tends to shi
contains a description of the key physicochemical properties of
the distillation curve towards higher boiling points than
the converted neat PME in comparison with ASTM and EN
petrol–diesel, especially in the T50 region.29 In this study, the
standards. The important properties of the petroleum diesel are
full ranges of the distillation temperatures of the fuel samples
also listed in this table. It can be observed that the physico-
Tx, in which “x” stands for distillation temperatures corre-
chemical properties of the produced biodiesel were measured
sponding to x vol% of the distilled and condensed liquid fuel,
and benchmarked against the biodiesel standards based on
were measured by a distillation temperature analyzer (Anton
ASTM D6751 and EN14214. It appears that all of the physico-
Paar ADU 5, Anton Paar Strasse 10, 8054 Graz, Austria). The
chemical properties of PME are sufficient to meet the ASTM and
cetane index (CI) of the PME and diesel fuel was calculated
EN biodiesel standards. In particular, the kinematic viscosity of
from the density (D) and distillation temperature T50 using the
the transesteried palm oil was substantially improved, but it
following formula:30
was slightly higher than that of petroleum diesel. In addition,
the ash point for PME was relatively higher than that of CI ¼ 454.74  1641.416D + 774.74D2  0.554(T50)
petroleum diesel and was suitable for use as a transportation + 97.803(log T50)2 (1)
fuel. However, the caloric value of the PME was lower than that
of petroleum diesel. Another key property that signicantly

Table 1 The fuel properties of petroleum diesel and PME biodiesel

Properties Unit fuel PME Limit (ASTM D6751) Test method

Kinematic viscosity @ 40  C mm2 s1 3.34 4.4 1.9–6.0 ASTM D445

Density @ 15  C kg m3 851.9 876.9 880 ASTM D127
Acid number mg KOH g1 0.12 0.06 0.5 max ASTM D664
Caloric value MJ kg1 45.31 39.98 — ASTM D240

Flash point C 71.5 165.5 130 min ASTM D93

Pour point C 1 9 Not specied ASTM D970

Cloud point C 8 10 Not specied ASTM D2500

Cold lter plugging point C 2 10 Not specied ASTM D6371
Oxidation stability @ 100  C hours >50 5 3 min EN14112
Cetane index — 51 58 — D976

Distillation C
IBP 182.7 297.8 Distillation temperature, 90% recovered ASTM D86
T5 212.4 325.2 (T90) ¼ 360  C max
T10 225.5 326.5
T15 236.6 326.5
T20 246.1 326.9
T25 254.2 327.5
T30 261.0 327.9
T35 268.1 328.5
T40 274.6 328.9
T45 280.4 329.2
T50 286.9 329.6
T55 293.0 330.2
T60 299.4 330.7
T65 305.9 331.3
T70 312.7 332.0
T75 320.3 333.0
T80 327.8 334.2
T85 336.1 335.9
T90 346.1 339.0
T95 361.3 343.1
FBP 366.0 344.3

This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015 RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 | 96083
RSC Advances Paper

where D ¼ density at 15  C and T50 ¼ mid-boiling temperature,  C. probability of the occurrence of knocking in diesel engines.31 In
As can be seen, the distillation temperatures of T50 for PME addition, the fatty acid composition of PME was measured by
and diesel fuel are 329.6  C and 286.9  C, respectively. A higher a gas chromatography/ame ionization detector (GC/FID). The
distillation temperature may shorten the ignition delay of the GC/FID operating conditions are given in Table 2. The analysis
fuel, thus increasing the cetane number and decreasing the of fatty acids was based on AOAC 996.06 official methods. The
results of the fatty acid composition of PME fuel in comparison
with another study are shown in Table 3. It was found that PME
contained a moderate level of saturated (44.87%) and unsatu-
Table 2 The GC/FID operating conditions
rated (55.14%) fatty acids, in which the level of saturated fatty
Property Specication acids is almost equal to that of the unsaturated fatty acids. In
fact, the distribution of fatty acid compositions is in very close
Carrier gas Hydrogen agreement with the other study.32
Flow rate of carrier gas 1 ml min1
Column Agilent HP-88 (60 m  0.25 mm ID,
0.2 mm) 2.3. Engine operating conditions
Inlet temperature 250  C In this study, all experiments were conducted under a constant
Initial temperature 120  C
Initial holding time 1 minute
speed of 1500 rpm and an injection pressure of 600 bar.
Oven ramp conditions 1st ramp 10  C min1 to 175  C (hold 10 min) Generally, the test program in the present experiment
2nd ramp 5  C min1 to 210  C (hold 5 min) comprises two series of tests to assess the effects of biodiesel
3rd ramp 5  C min1 to 230  C (hold 5 min) fuel on the engine performance, emissions, and combustion
Type of detector FID characteristics. Firstly, the effect of the fuel injection timing on
Split ratio 50 : 1
FID detector temperature 260  C performance, emissions and combustion characteristics of an
Injection volume 1 mL engine operating in conventional compression ignition mode
was investigated. At a constant BMEP of 0.4 MPa and without
EGR, the start-of-injection (SOI) timing was varied from
0 ATDC to 25 ATDC. In the later test series, the EGR rate was
Table 3 The fatty acid composition of neat PME fuel varied from 0% to 50% at a constant BMEP of 0.4 MPa and an
SOI of 11 ATDC. This SOI timing was conrmed based on the
Property Formula PME PME32
peak brake thermal efficiency as found in the previous test
Carbon chain length distribution (wt%) series. In each series of tests, diesel fuel was used as the base-
line fuel for the basis of comparison. When the engine was
Saturated fatty acid fueled with biodiesel fuel, the engine ran satisfactorily
C4:0 (butyric acid) C4H8O2 0.15 0 throughout the entire test, which was performed at room
C6:0 (caproic acid) C6H12O2 0.08 0
C8:0 (caprylic acid) C8H16O2 0.21 0
temperature, and had no starting difficulties. The tests were
C10:0 (capric acid) C10H20O2 0.18 0 performed under steady-state conditions with a sufficiently
C12:0 (lauric acid) C12H24O2 1.56 0.2 warmed exhaust gas and water coolant temperature. To
C14:0 (myristic acid) C14H28O2 1.4 0.9 enhance the accuracy of the study, each test point was repeated
C15:0 (pentadecanoic acid) C15H30O2 0.05 0 twice to produce average readings. The repeatability was
C16:0 (palmitic acid) C16H32O2 36.74 43.7
C17:0 (heptadecanoic acid) C17H34O2 0.1 0
matched over 95% for each test.
C18:0 (stearic acid) C18H36O2 4.23 4.5
C20:0 (arachidic acid) C20H40O2 0 0.3 2.4. Electronic fuel injection system
C21:0 (heneicosanoic acid) C21H42O2 0.07 0
C24:0 (lignoceric acid) C24H48O2 0.1 0 2.4.1. Hardware and fuel delivery system development. The
test engine used in the present study is based on a modied
Unsaturated fatty acid single-cylinder compression ignition diesel engine (YANMAR
C16:1n7 (palmitoleic acid) C16H30O2 0.19 0 TF-120E). Originally, the engine was equipped with a regular
C18:1n9t (elaidic acid) C18H34O2 0.7 0
C18:1n9c (oleic acid) C18H34O2 41.90 39.7
fuel injection system consisting of a mechanical type of pres-
C18:2n6c (linoleic acid) C18H32O2 10.03 10.0 sure fuel pump (200 bar) timed by the camsha, and
C18:2n6t (linolelaidic acid) C18H32O2 0.31 0 a mechanical fuel injector with an injection angle of 150 and
C18:3n6 (g-linoleic acid) C18H30O2 0.42 0 four 0.26 mm diameter holes. The engine is naturally aspirated
C18:3n3 (linolenic acid) C18H30O2 0.19 0 with a maximum output of 7.5 kW. The original fuel injection
C20:1 (cis-11-eicosenoic acid) C20H38O2 0.19 0
C20:2 (cis-11,14-eicosadienoic acid) C20H36O2 1.13 0
timing was constant and set to 17 BTDC. The engine was
C20:3n6 (cis-8,11,14-eicosatrienoic C20H34O2 0.08 0 originally equipped with a mechanical governor to control the
acid) engine speed. The specications of the test engine are listed in
Table 4 and a schematic diagram of the experimental setup is
Fatty acid saturation/unsaturation 44.87/55.14 49.6/49.7 shown in Fig. 2. Fig. 3 is a photo showing the common-rail
ratio (wt%/wt%)
injector mounted on the engine head. The original injection
system of the engine was disassembled and a new common-rail

96084 | RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015
Paper RSC Advances

Table 4 Characteristics of single-cylinder engine

Parameter Before modication Aer modication

Model YANMAR TF-120E

Displacement 638 cm3
Bore 92 mm
Stroke 96 mm
Compression ratio 17.7 : 1
Rated power 7.8 kW
Rated speed 2400 rpm
Fuel injection system
Mechanical cam driven Electronically
injection common-rail injection
Nozzle holes 4 5
Nozzle diameter 0.26 mm 0.134 mm
Fig. 4 Common-rail fuel delivery setup with pump driven by electric
Fuel pump mounting Engine mechanically Electrically driven

injection system was retrotted as illustrated in Fig. 4. The

system was based on commercially available common-rail
diesel engine components. A second-generation, electronically
controlled common-rail high-pressure injection system (DENSO
HP3) was installed to replace the original mechanical type
pump-line-nozzle injection system. The fuel pump was exter-
nally driven using an electric motor running at 750 rpm to
maintain the required high-pressure levels in the fuel rail and to
ensure a stable line pressure with minimum uctuation. The
pressure level in the rail is fully controlled by PID closed-loop
regulation and it can be changed to a pressure between 0 and
1800 bar.
2.4.2. Engine controller unit (ECU). The ECU employed in
the present study was based on the open-source Arduino Mega
2560 microcontroller.33 The microcontroller uses three inter-
rupt service routines to pick up the incremental encoder and
engine camsha signals. The programming coding was written
Fig. 2 Schematic diagram of the experiment setup.
with the open-source Arduino Soware (IDE) and loaded to the
board via serial communication with the computer. For the real-
time control and monitoring of the injection parameters such
as engine speed, start of injection (SOI) timing and opening
pulse-width (PW) for the pilot, main and post injection, closed-
loop engine speed control mode selection and injection pres-
sure adjustment a LabVIEW based graphic user interface (GUI)
program was employed in this study. The interface programme
is shown in Fig. 5. The engine controller also featured
a programmable peak and hold pulse-width-modulation (PWM)
to effectively drive the solenoid injectors for common-rail direct

Fig. 3 Common-rail injector mounted on the engine cylinder head.

Fig. 5 Interface programme.

This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015 RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 | 96085
RSC Advances Paper

injection. The control unit was designed to fully support and element was applied to the sampled cylinder pressure data.
control the engine parameters. The same controller system was Combustion parameters, such as peak pressure magnitude,
capable of simultaneously controlling the exhaust gas recircu- peak pressure location, heat release rate, peak heat release rate
lation (EGR) system. EGR was adopted to moderate the heat location, and ID, were all computed using Matlab soware. For
release rate (HRR) and the combustion timing phasing. In the exhaust emission measurement, an AVL DICOM 4000 gas
particular, this involved the installation of the EGR valve, EGR analyser was used to measure the concentrations of NOx. The
cooler, EGR surge tank and two identical CO2 sensors. The EGR opacity of smoke was measured using an AVL DiSmoke 4000. All
rate can be exibly adjusted by controlling the EGR valve. Under emissions were measured during steady-state engine operation.
steady-state conditions, the EGR rate can be measured by The measurement range and resolution of both of the instru-
comparing the ratio of the CO2 in the intake to the exhaust and ments are provided in Table 5. The NOx emissions were con-
as follows: verted into brake specic emissions by using the following
½intake CO2  equations according to SAE J177:
EGR ð%Þ ¼  100 (2)
½exhaust CO2 
BSNOx(g kW1 h1) ¼ 0.0952  NOx(ppm)  exhaust mass flow
rate(kg min1)/brake power(kW) (3)

2.5. Instrumentation
The engine load absorber is based on the 7.5 kW A.C. 3. Calculation methods
synchronous dynamometer. It is used to provide loading to the
3.1. Engine performance
engine and to maintain the engine speed. An airow meter
turbine with a 2 to 70 litres per second (L s1) measuring range The engine performance in this work was evaluated based on
was installed to measure the intake airow rate. To monitor the the BSFC and BTE. The BSFC and BTE were determined and
exhaust gas temperature, a type K thermocouple was used and calculated according to the following equations:
mounted in the exhaust stream. The fuel ow rate for the direct  fuel consumption
injection system was measured with a positive displacement BSFC g kW1 h1 ¼ (4)
brake power
gear wheel ow meter, which interfaced with a ow rate total-
izer. The test system was installed with the necessary sensors for brake power  100
BTE ð%Þ ¼ (5)
combustion analysis and fuel injection timing identication. calorific value  fuel consumption
In-cylinder gas pressure was measured using a Kistler 6125B
type pressure sensor. The charge signal output of the pressure
sensor was converted to a low-impedance voltage signal using
a PCB model 422E53 in-line charge converter; this unit was 3.2. Combustion analysis
powered using a PCB model 480E09 signal conditioner. To HRR analysis is a useful approach to assess the effects of the
acquire the top dead centre (TDC) position and crank angle fuel injection system, fuel type, engine design changes, and
signal for every engine rotation, an incremental quadrature engine operating conditions on the combustion process and
rotary sha angle encoder with 0.125 CA resolution (X4 engine performance.34 Given the plot of HRR versus crank angle,
encoding) was used. To determine and verify the SOI timing and it is easy to identify the start of combustion (SOC) timing, the
injection duration for the injector, the injector current signal fraction of fuel burned in the premixed mode, and differences
was measured with a hall effect current sensor. To simulta- in the combustion rates of fuels.35 In the present paper,
neously acquire the cylinder pressure signal, injector current different fuels were used in an identical compression ignition
signal, and encoder signals, a computer equipped with a high- engine; hence, the HRR information is an important parameter
speed simultaneous sampling data acquisition card, which in interpreting the engine performance and exhaust emissions.
has 14 bits resolution, a 2 MS s1 sampling rate, and four analog In this study, the averaged in-cylinder pressure data of 100
input channels, was used. The acquired data were further pro- successive cycles, acquired with a 0.125 crank angle resolution,
cessed and analysed with Matlab soware. In each test, 100 dQ
consecutive combustion cycles of pressure data were collected were used to compute the HRR. The HRR, given by , at each
and an average was calculated. To reduce noise effects, smooth crank angle was obtained from the rst law of thermodynamics,
data using SPAN as the number of points used to compute each and it can be calculated by the following formula:

Table 5 Measuring components, ranges and resolution of the AVL DICOM 4000 gas analyzer and DiSmoke 4000 smoke analyzer

Equipment principle Component Measurement range Resolution

Gas analyzer Electrochemical Nitrogen oxides (NOx) 0–5000 ppm 1 ppm

Calculation Excess air ratio (l) 0–9999 0.001
Smoke opacimeter Photodiode detector Opacity (%) 0–100% 0.10%

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Table 6 List of measurement accuracy and percentage uncertainties

Measurement Measurement range Accuracy Measurement techniques % uncertainty

Load 120 Nm 0.1 Nm Strain gauge type load cell 1

Speed 60–10 000 rpm 1 rpm Magnetic pick up type 0.1
Time — 0.1 s — 0.2
Fuel ow measurement 0.5–36 L h1 0.01 L h1 Positive displacement gear wheel ow meter 2
Air ow measurement 2–70 L s1 0.04 L s1 Turbine ow meter 0.5
NOx 0–5000 ppm 1 ppm Electrochemical 1.3
Smoke 0–100% 0.1% Photodiode detector 1
EGT sensor 0–1200  C 0.3  C Type K thermocouple 0.15
Pressure sensor 0–25 000 kPa 12.5 kPa Piezoelectric crystal type 1
Crank angle encoder 0–12 000 rpm 0.125 Incremental optical encoder 0.03

BSFC — 7.8 g kW1 h1 — 1.95
BTE — 0.5% — 1.74
BSNOx — 0.1 g kW1 h1 — 0.73

dQ g dV 1 dP biodiesel fuel and baseline diesel. Generally, the BSFC is

¼ P þ V (6)
dq g  1 dq g  1 dq a measure of the amount of fuel required to generate one-
kilowatt of power per hour. From the results, it was observed
where, g ¼ specic heat ratio, P ¼ instantaneous cylinder
that the BSFC for PME biodiesel fuel is consistently higher than
pressure (Pa), and V ¼ instantaneous cylinder volume (m3).
that of baseline diesel across all SOI timings. The higher BSFC
of PME means that a greater amount of fuel was required to
3.3. Statistical and equipment uncertainty analysis
attain the same amount of power. This was expected because of
Experimental errors and uncertainties can arise from instru- the low caloric value of PME in comparison with diesel, which
ment selection, condition, calibration, environment, observa- was about 12% lower than that of baseline diesel fuel. Addi-
tion, reading, and test procedures. The measurement range, tionally, one can observe that the variation in injection timing
accuracy, and percentage uncertainties associated with the also has a signicant effect on the variation of the BSFC. As the
instruments used in this experiment are listed in Table 6. SOI timing was advanced from the top dead center (TDC) point,
Uncertainty analysis is necessary to verify the accuracy of the the BSFC dropped for all fuels. This reduction in the BSFC can
experiments. Percentage uncertainties of various parameters, be explained by the fact that as the SOI timing was advanced,
such as brake specic fuel consumption (BSFC), brake thermal there was continuous enhancement in the combustion effi-
efficiency (BTE), and brake specic nitrogen oxide (BSNOx) were ciency and quality. With a constant amount of brake power
determined using the percentage uncertainties of various output, the decreased effect of the BSFC means less fuel is being
instruments employed in the experiment. To compute the supplied to undergo a more efficient combustion process. This
overall percentage uncertainty due to the combined effect of the is particularly for the case of advanced SOI timing. However, it is
uncertainties of various variables, the principle of the propa- observed that a further advance in SOI timing beyond 11
gation of errors is considered and can be estimated as 3.7%. ATDC causes penalties in the BSFC as the combustion pressure
The overall experimental uncertainty was computed as follows: build up begins to resist the upward movement of the piston.

Overall experimental uncertainty ¼ square root of [(uncertainty of

fuel flow rate)2 + (uncertainty of BSFC)2 + (uncertainty of
BTE)2 + (uncertainty of BSNOx)2 + (uncertainty of exhaust gas
temperature (EGT))2 + (uncertainty of smoke)2 + (uncertainty of
pressure sensor)2 + (uncertainty of crank angle encoder)2]

¼ square root of [(2)2 + (1.95)2 + (1.74)2 + (0.73)2

+ (0.15)2 + (1)2 + (1)2 + (0.03)2]

¼ 3.7%

4. Results and discussion

4.1. Effect of injection timing
4.1.1. Performance analysis. Fig. 6 illustrates the resulting Fig. 6 BSFC with the PME compared with diesel fuel at various SOI
effect of SOI timing on the BSFC of the engine fueled with PME timing.

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Based on the BSFC results, the optimum SOI timing for the PME both fuels operations. It may be due to the decrease in the delay
and diesel operations is found to be 11 ATDC and this setting period, which reduces the power output because a larger
will be used for the following test series. amount of fuel burns during expansion and the cylinder pres-
Engine BTE is commonly used to express the efficiency of an sure rises only when the cylinder volume is expanding rapidly,
engine to convert fuel chemical energy to mechanical energy. and as a result lower effective pressure is produced.36,37
BTE can be calculated by dividing the brake power output by the 4.1.2. Emissions analysis. NOx is a hazardous and unde-
total energy input delivered to the system. Fig. 7 illustrates the sirable emission product that has a wide variety of human
variations in BTE with different SOI timings of the engine fueled health and environmental impacts. Literature studies indicate
with PME biodiesel fuel and baseline diesel. The BTE of base- that there is no absolute trend in NOx emissions when biodiesel
line diesel is found to be consistently higher than that of PME fuels are operated in CI engines. Researchers from all over the
across all SOI timing. In fact, it can be observed that the peak world have reported higher NOx emissions with biodiesel-fueled
BTE for baseline diesel and PME are 29.5% and 28.6% respec- engines,38–40 and others found lower NOx emissions when using
tively, at an SOI timing of 11 ATDC. In addition, the results methyl ester fuels.41,42 Typically, the NOx formation depends on
also indicate that the BTE is signicantly affected by the varia- the fuel properties, fuel type, type of engine and engine opera-
tion in SOI timing. There is an improvement in the BTE for all tion conditions.43,44 The variation of BSNOx emissions of the test
the test fuels with advanced SOI timings, except for in the case fuels at various SOI timings is illustrated in Fig. 8. The result
of SOI timings beyond 11 ATDC. The incremental effect is shows that advancement of the SOI timing resulted in increased
due to the longer ignition delay (physical delay) leading to better BSNOx emissions for all the test fuels. The increasing trend in
mixing, which results in better combustion and a higher BTE. BSNOx emissions suggested that with advanced SOI timing, the
Another reason is that at advanced injection timing, the engine mixture ignites and burns earlier, hence resulting in early
reaches the peak pressure closer to TDC and is therefore able to occurrence of peak pressure near TDC. This leads to a higher
produce higher effective pressure to perform useful work.36 combustion temperature and promotes the thermal or Zeldo-
However, there is a continuous deterioration of the BTE in the vich NOx formation mechanism. The results also show that PME
case of further advances in SOI timing beyond 11 ATDC for fuel tends to lower the BSNOx emissions across all the SOI
timings. This can be attributed to the relatively higher cetane
number and lower heating value of the PME compared with
baseline diesel, which consequently lowers the heat release rate
at the premix combustion stage and reduces the peak
combustion temperature. This nding is further reinforced by
the similar trend of the in-cylinder mean gas temperature, as
shown in Fig. 9.
The smoke formation results from the incomplete combus-
tion of the hydrocarbon fuel and partial reaction of the carbon
content in the liquid fuel. The variation of smoke emissions of

Fig. 7 Brake thermal efficiency under different SOI timing conditions.

Fig. 9 In-cylinder mean gas temperature curves for (a) baseline diesel
Fig. 8 BSNOx emissions under different SOI timing conditions. and (b) PME at various SOI timings.

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advanced SOI timing. In fact, running on PME fuel exhibits

a higher EGT when compared to diesel fuel across all SOI
timing. The increment may be due to the lower caloric value of
PME fuel. Thus, the increased fuel quantity injected for
attaining the same amount of power has caused an increase of
the in-cylinder bulk-gas-averaged temperatures. On average,
EGT for PME fuel across all SOI timings were increased by 11.5

C compared to baseline diesel. The highest increment of EGT
is 15  C for SOI of 5 ATDC with respect to baseline diesel.
Another interesting observation is that as the SOI timing was
advanced, EGT reduced for all fuels. This happened due to
greater heat release occurring closer to TDC in the expansion
stroke, which offered sufficient time for the hot combustion
product to expand and cool down prior to the exhaust valve
Fig. 10 Smoke emissions under different SOI timing conditions.
being opened. This enhances the heat utilization and allows
better cooling of combustion gases, thus lowering the exhaust
gas temperature. Further advances in SOI timing to beyond
the test fuels at various SOI timings is presented in Fig. 10.
13 ATDC has caused the increases in EGT because of the
Generally, it can be seen that the smoke emission level
increase in the BSFC.
decreased with the PME at all SOI timings. Lower smoke
4.1.3. Combustion analysis. To study the effect of biodiesel
emissions were observed than in diesel fuel across all SOI
fuel on combustion, the cylinder pressures for 100 consecutive
timings, largely because of higher fuel-borne oxygen, lower
combustion cycles were recorded, averaged, and compared.
carbon content, and the absence or lower amount of aromatics
Fig. 12 shows the plot of combustion pressure, HRR and
in PME fuel.45 The results also indicate that smoke emissions
injector current prole of the engine operated with baseline
were reduced with advanced SOI timings. This is due to cylinder
diesel and PME fuels at optimum SOI timing of 11 ATDC. As
operating temperatures being higher for advanced SOI timings,
can be observed, the engine operated with PME fuel had little
which improved the reaction between fuel and oxygen and
effect on the combustion characteristics, and the pattern is
resulted in lower smoke emissions.37 Another reason may be
comparable with the baseline diesel. The pressure peak was
due to the availability of sufficient time for the fuel to evaporate
shied later toward the expansion stroke with PME fuel
and mix with the air, leading to better mixing and combustion.18
although the location of SOC timing for PME occurred 0.25 CA
Due to the overall lean operation and higher expansion ratio
earlier than those of baseline diesel. In addition, a small
of the compression ignition diesel engine, the exhaust gas
reduction in the pressure peak in the range of 0.6 bar was
temperature (EGT) is typically lower than that of the gasoline
observed for the PME fuel operation. Two prominent peaks of
engine. A higher EGT is unfavorable as this will deteriorate the
HRR were observed for both fuels. The rst and second peak of
engine fuel economy by discharging some of the useful energy
HRR correspond to the premixed and mixing controlled
into waste exhaust thermal energy, and may also cause thermal
combustion phases respectively. Also, it can be clearly observed
damage to piston components. The variation of exhaust gas
that the location of occurrence for the rst and second peak of
temperature of the test fuels at various SOI timings is shown in
HRR for the PME fuel was shied earlier (by 0.25 CA) and later
Fig. 11. Generally, it can be seen that the variation in exhaust
(by 0.875 CA) from the TDC point, respectively, compared to
gas temperature follows a similar trend to the BSFC with
baseline diesel. The primary reason for the early occurrence of
the rst HRR peak can be attributed to the advance in SOC
timing, which caused the earlier rise of the HRR. On the other
hand, slow burning rate and thus longer combustion duration
of PME fuel has caused the second HRR peak to occur later in
the expansion stroke as compared to those of baseline diesel.
The total burning angles for PME fuel with respect to baseline
diesel are shown in Fig. 13. The total burning angle in this study
is dened as the period between 10% and 90% mass burnt. The
longer combustion duration of PME fuel means that it has
a slower burn rate than baseline diesel, especially during the
mixing controlled combustion phase. This was postulated to be
due to the slightly higher viscosity of PME fuel compared to
baseline diesel, hence delaying the mixing time required for
diffusive burning. Another explanation may be due to the lower
caloric value of the PME fuel, thus resulting in an increase of
Fig. 11 Exhaust gas temperature variation under different SOI timing fuel quantity injected for attaining the same amount of power.
conditions. As more fuel is being injected, a richer mixture is thus formed

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inside the cylinder chamber, which burns more rapidly in the diesel at all SOI timings. The HRR curves have similar patterns,
early stages of combustion (premixed combustion phase) and as the combustion pressure trend where the HRR peak that is
the remaining fuel burns in the later stages (mixing controlled associated with premixed combustion was shied earlier
combustion phase) and requires a longer duration. toward the compression stroke with advanced SOI timing, for
Fig. 14 shows the variation of combustion pressure and HRR both of the tested fuels. When SOI was advanced toward the
with respect to the crank angle at different SOI timings for the TDC in the expansion stroke, the maximum HRR associated
engine operated with baseline diesel and PME fuel. Generally, with the premixed combustion became initially lower and
the combustion pressure peak consistently increases and shif- remained unchanged. However, further advances in SOI timing
ted earlier toward the TDC position with advancing SOI timing beyond 15 ATDC have led to signicant increases in the
for both of the fuels. The resultant higher and more effective maximum HRR. This was due to a longer ignition delay, which
pressure was utilized to perform useful work and thus improve tends to promote more premixed combustion and increase both
the BSFC and BTE. However, further advance in SOI timing the maximum combustion pressure and HRR. With the PME
beyond 11 ATDC caused combustion pressure to build up fuel, the HRR was similar to baseline diesel, however one can
rapidly in the compression stroke, thus beginning to oppose the notice that a higher fuel fraction was burned in the mixing
upward movement of the piston and causing deterioration of controlled combustion phase (i.e. a wider plateau region aer
the BSFC. On average, it is found that PME produces a 0.77 bar the rst HRR peak). This phenomenon was clearly visible for the
lower maximum combustion pressure compared to baseline retarded SOI cases (i.e. SOI ¼ 0 ATDC) as compared to earlier

Fig. 12 Combustion pressure, heat release rate and injector current profiles for diesel and PME fuel at SOI of 11 ATDC.

Fig. 13 Total burning angle as a function of SOI timing for diesel and PME fuel.

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Fig. 15 BSFC with the PME compared with diesel fuel at various EGR

EGR rate higher than 30% and 35% for baseline diesel and PME
fuel, respectively, the BSFC begins to increase gradually. At
higher EGR rates, the oxygen available for combustion is
reduced. Thus, the air–fuel ratio is altered and this raises the
BSFC. This is evident by the decrease in excess oxygen available
Fig. 14 Combustion pressure curves for (a) baseline diesel and (b) PME in the exhaust tailpipe as shown in Fig. 16.
at various SOI timings. Fig. 17 shows the comparison of the BTE for the engine
operated with PME biodiesel and baseline diesel. It is evident
that the BTE for PME fuel is always lower than that of baseline
SOI conditions. This was mainly due to a higher cetane number diesel regardless of the EGR rate. The lower caloric value of the
of PME fuel compared to baseline diesel, thereby resulting in PME fuel could be the reason behind this. Subsequently, the
a shorter ignition delay and a lower pressure peak. In fact, the BTE is found to have slightly increased with a moderate EGR
peak of the pressure curve also shied away from the TDC point rate for both of the tested fuels. At moderate EGR rates, the
in the expansion stroke as compared to baseline diesel for the burned gas temperature is decreased signicantly, thus
corresponding SOI timing. On average, it is found that PME reducing heat loss via the combustion chamber surfaces,
produces 5.7 J/ CA lower in maximum HRR compared to base- leaving more available for conversion to mechanical work
line diesel across all SOI timing. during the expansion stroke. Another possible improvement
reason may be due to the reduced pumping work as the EGR
rate is increased at a constant brake load. On the other hand,
4.2. Effect of EGR
lower oxygen exhaust gas feeds into the intake at higher EGR
EGR is one of the most promising strategies to reduce NOx rates, thus resulting in poor air utilization and this leads to
emissions in diesel engines by controlling the oxygen density a reduction of BTE. Also, the decrease in BTE for the PME at an
and combustion peak temperature.46,47 However, the trade-off EGR rate of more than 35% was less prominent compared to
between NOx and soot emissions must be analyzed carefully baseline diesel. This can be credited to the higher oxygen
with the addition of EGR and the biodiesel fueled engine. In content in PME fuel which aids the better combustion
this section, the effect of using EGR on the performance, efficiency.
emissions and combustion of the baseline diesel and PME 4.2.2. Emissions analysis. Fig. 18 shows the variation of
fueled engines will be discussed. The SOI timing was kept at an BSNOx emission and smoke of the PME and baseline diesel with
optimum of 11 ATDC as found in the previous test series and various EGR rates. The overall trend indicates that the BSNOx
adjustments were made in the EGR rates (i.e. 0 to 50%). emissions for both of the tested fuels tend to decrease as the
4.2.1. Performance analysis. The variations in the BSFC EGR rate increases. The BSNOx emission is reduced with an
with respect to the EGR rate for the engine operated with PME increasing EGR rate due to the lowered burned gas temperature
biodiesel fuel and baseline diesel is shown in Fig. 15. Generally, with dilution. Compared to baseline diesel, the BSNOx emis-
it can be seen that the BSFC for PME biodiesel fuel is consis- sions of PME are lower across all EGR rates. It is observed that
tently higher than that of baseline diesel across all EGR rates. for both of the fuels, a drastic BSNOx reduction in the range of
This was mainly due to the lower caloric value of PME, thus the 23.8–97% at a 10–50% EGR rate was obtained compared with
BSFC is higher than that of baseline diesel at all EGR rates. One the corresponding engine operation without EGR. In fact, on
can also observe that the variation in the EGR rate also has average the addition of EGR in reducing BSNOx emissions for
a small effect on the BSFC. As the EGR rate increased, the BSFC PME was about 0.5% more effective than baseline diesel. As
dropped for all fuels, compared to without EGR. However, at an

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Fig. 19 Intake and exhaust air CO2 concentration with the PME
compared with diesel fuel at various EGR rates.
Fig. 16 Exhaust gas O2 concentration with the PME compared with
diesel fuel at various EGR rates.

may lead to a greater BSNOx reduction. This is evident by the

increase in the CO2 concentration in intake air as shown in
Fig. 19. The plots also indicate that PME fuel emitted a higher
exhaust CO2 than baseline diesel across all EGR rates. This may
be due to the combined effects of lower caloric value and the
extra oxygen content of PME fuel altering the combustion
process which eventually results in higher exhaust CO2. At over
45% EGR, the BSNOx emission is below 0.4 g kW1 h1 for both
fuels, which is the EURO VI emission standard. On the other
hand, the effects of EGR on the smoke emission for baseline
diesel and PME revealed an increasing trend with higher EGR
rates. It is evident that as compared to baseline diesel, the
smoke emissions are lower for PME fuel and tend to increase at
a much slower rate with higher EGR rates. It is the oxygen
Fig. 17 BTE with the PME compared with diesel fuel at various EGR content in the PME fuel that plays a vital part in the combustion
rates. process which eventually causes a reduction in the smoke
emissions. Moreover, the smoke formation rate increased
sharply as the EGR rate rose over 35% for both fuels. When the
engine was fueled with PME, an increase of the smoke emis-
sions of 186% was observed using 35% EGR. Further increases
in the EGR rate to 50% rapidly increased the smoke emission by
620% when compared with the engine operation without EGR.
Under high EGR conditions, the exhaust gases re-circulated into
the intake result in a reduction of the oxygen available for
combustion. The in-cylinder soot formation and oxidation
processes are strongly governed by the engine operation on
gradually richer mixtures due to the reduction in oxygen
content by EGR. Hence, the reduction in oxygen availability for
fuel combustion and lower combustion temperature reduces
the soot oxidation process which leads to higher smoke emis-
sions. Another interesting topic that can be further discussed is
the trade-off between BSNOx, smoke and the EGR rates. From
Fig. 18 BSNOx and smoke emission with various rates of EGR.
the results of the EGR effect on BSNOx and the smoke emissions
of the PME, an optimal trade-off between BSNOx and smoke
emissions can be achieved with EGR in the range of 10–30%,
discussed above, a lower heat release rate during the premixed
without a signicant adverse effect on engine performance. It
combustion phase and a lower peak combustion temperature
was realized that with PME fuel, an engine operating at 30%
for PME results in lower BSNOx emissions. In addition to this,
EGR resulted in an optimal trade-off between BSNOx and smoke
re-entering more water vapor and CO2 into the combustion
emissions. At this EGR rate, the BSNOx emissions have effec-
chamber due to the increase in the specic fuel consumption of
tively decreased by 80.7%, but the smoke emissions have
PME fuel compared with the operation of baseline diesel also
increased by 167.3% compared to the engine operation in the

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absence of EGR. However, compared to diesel operation at 30% premixed burn fraction and shied the location of the occur-
EGR, the PME fuel effectively reduced smoke emissions by 50%. rence later toward the expansion stroke. This shi in heat
Therefore, by considering both the positive effect of the reduc- release revealed a delay of the combustion processes due to the
tion in BSNOx and the smoke emissions, it is acceptable to prolonged ignition delay. In the present study, the timing
operate an engine using PME at 30% EGR. difference between the SOI and start of combustion was dened
4.2.3. Combustion analysis. To evaluate the effect of the as the ignition delay. The SOI was conrmed from the injector
EGR variation using PME and baseline diesel on the combus- current signal trace and the start of combustion by analyzing
tion characteristics, the in-cylinder combustion pressures for the rst appearance of positive heat release. As can be seen in
100 consecutive combustion cycles were recorded and Fig. 21, the plot of ignition delay versus EGR rate evidently
compared at various EGR rates (0–50%) and at a xed engine shows that the increase in the EGR rate caused a progressive
speed of 1500 rpm and a BMEP of 0.4 MPa. The in-cylinder increase in the ignition delay for both fuels. In fact, in
pressure, HRR and injector current proles for the engine comparison with the corresponding baseline diesel, the use of
using PME and baseline diesel are both illustrated in Fig. 20. As the PME fuel resulted in a shorter ignition delay by an average of
can be seen, the variation of EGR rate had the greatest effect on 0.3 CA. This is credited to the higher cetane number of the
the combustion characteristics for both of the tested fuels. PME fuel compared to baseline diesel, thereby resulting in
According to the HRR results, both fuels produced double peaks better ignition quality. Subsequently, the effect of prolonging
of HRR: the rst peak reects the premixed combustion the ignition delay also caused a progressive increase in the peak
process, and the second peak corresponds to the mixing HRR with a higher EGR rate. As the EGR increases, the in-
controlled combustion phase. However, the transition from cylinder fuel air mixture becomes more homogeneous due to
premixed combustion into mixing controlled combustion a longer ignition delay, which could have allowed a larger
became less explicit with an increasing EGR rate for both fuels. fraction of fuel air mixture to burn during the premixed
In addition, the HRR results indicate that an increasing EGR combustion phase. This effect also explained the phenomenon
rate caused a progressive increase in the peak HRR during the of the premixed combustion process dominating at a high EGR

Fig. 20 In-cylinder pressure, HRR and injector current signal versus crank angle for engine operation with PME (top) and baseline diesel (bottom)
at various EGR rates.

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chemical and thermal effects, with the most signicant effect

being the dilution effect, which extends the ignition delay
duration and thus enhances the in-cylinder charge mixing.48
Consequently, the premixed phase of combustion occurred late
in the expansion stroke, thereby lowering the peak pressure and
reducing BSNOx.

4.3. Strategy for simultaneous BSNOx–smoke reduction

A vast amount of studies have been carried out to reduce the
emissions of pollutants from diesel engines and the attempts
are still in progress.36,49–51 Specically, the simultaneous reduc-
Fig. 21 Ignition delay at various EGR rates for engine operation with tion of NOx and smoke is the most challenging aspect in the
baseline diesel and PME fuels. reduction of diesel emissions. Emission controls at the source
level are the most effective techniques in reducing the pollut-
ants of a diesel engine since they are economical when
setting. Related to the EGR effects on NOx emissions, the pro- compared to the treatment of exhaust gases.52 Injection timing
longed ignition delay retards the combustion events toward the is a key parameter that directly affects the combustion and
expansion stroke, thus promoting more combustible mixtures exhaust emissions. Using EGR for NOx reduction is another
to burn at a lower temperature. As a result, NOx formation via promising approach in diesel engines, but there could be an
the thermal or Zeldovich mechanism can be greatly reduced. increase in smoke emissions. Simultaneous reduction of both
Compared to baseline diesel, the peak HRR at the premix emission species from the levels of fossil diesel is possible with
combustion stage is found to be consistently lower with PME the use of biodiesels.32 Hence, a comparative analysis of the
fuel across all EGR rates. This scenario explained the lower exhaust BSNOx and smoke opacity levels between the engine
BSNOx emissions of the PME fuel with respect to baseline diesel fueled with neat PME biodiesel and that with fossil diesel is
at all EGR rates. In addition, the steepness of the HRR curves discussed in this section to observe the effect of injection timing
during the premixed combustion phase decreased with and EGR variation on BSNOx and smoke level.
increasing EGR. Again, this gave evidence of reduced reaction Fig. 23 shows the BSNOx–smoke plot for PME and baseline
rates and decreased BSNOx with increasing EGR for baseline diesel with various EGR rates and SOI timings. Generally, the
diesel and the PME fuels. overall trend shows that the BSNOx emissions for both of the
Another important aspect is related to in-cylinder combus- tested fuels reduced with a higher EGR rate and later SOI
tion pressure traces. A pronounced change in peak combustion timing. A substantially lower level of BSNOx below the EURO V
pressure was observed with increasing EGR for both fuels. As and EURO VI emission standard can be achieved by the late SOI
shown in Fig. 22, it was found that, in general, regardless of the timing of 0 ATDC and at over 45% EGR, respectively. The
EGR setting, the PME fuel exhibited a lower peak pressure than maximum BSNOx reduction for diesel operation is achieved
baseline diesel owing to the marginal decreases in the HRR with the variation of injection timing and addition of EGR, with
during the premixed combustion phase. On average, it is found a reduction of 72.6% and 97%, respectively. However, both
that PME produced 1.2 bar lower maximum combustion pres- techniques show a penalty on smoke emission as compared to
sure compared to baseline diesel across all EGR rates. The the baseline engine operation without EGR and with an SOI of
results also indicated that a higher EGR rate tends to lower the 11 ATDC. With the PME fuel operation, it is possible to
maximum cylinder pressure during the expansion stroke. This
may be due to the combined effect of greater heat capacity,

Fig. 22 Maximum combustion pressure at various EGR rates for

engine operation with baseline diesel and PME fuels. Fig. 23 BSNOx–smoke opacity plot for the tested fuels.

96094 | RSC Adv., 2015, 5, 96080–96096 This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015
Paper RSC Advances

reduce the smoke emission while maintaining a similar CO2 Carbon dioxide
reduction in BSNOx. The results indicate that about 50% and DI Direct injection
46% reduction in smoke emission can be attained when the ECU Electronic control unit
PME biodiesel is coupled with the strategies of late SOI timing EGR Exhaust gas recirculation
and a high EGR level, respectively. Hence, simultaneous BSNOx EGT Exhaust gas temperature
and smoke reduction from the levels of fossil diesel is possible FAME Fatty acid methyl ester
with the use of PME biodiesels in parallel with the imple- HC Hydrocarbon
mentation of late SOI timing or a higher EGR rate in a diesel HRR Heat release rate
engine. IC Internal combustion
NOx Nitrogen oxide
PFI Port fuel injection
5. Conclusions PM Particulate matter
PME Palm methyl ester
In this study, the performance, emission and combustion
PWM Pulse-width-modulation
characteristics of PME have been experimentally investigated in
Rpm Revolution per minute
a high-pressure common-rail DI diesel engine. The effect of SOI
SOC Start of combustion
timing and EGR were investigated at a constant speed of 1500
SOI Start of injection
rpm and a BMEP of 0.4 MPa. The following main conclusions
TDC Top dead centre
can be drawn from the present study. VOCs Volatile organic compounds
1. The physico-chemical properties of the produced PME l Relative air–fuel ratio (lambda)
biodiesel meet the ASTM D6751 standard.
2. The single-cylinder diesel engine had been successfully
converted to run with an electronically common-rail fuel
injection system using the Arduino microcontroller as an
engine ECU. This system was able to offer full control over all Acknowledgements
injection parameters.
3. Based on the highest BTE and the reasonable NOx level, The authors would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Higher
the optimum injection timing is found to be at 11 ATDC for Education (MOHE) of Malaysia and University of Malaya for
both of the baseline diesel and biodiesel operations. nancial support through a HIR grant (UM.C/HIR/MOHE/ENG/
4. The engine-out-responses under higher EGR (>30%) 07) and a Postgraduate Research Grant (PPP) (grant number
conditions have been investigated in the present study using PG035-2012B).
PME biodiesel and compared with baseline diesel. A substan-
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