A Pathway to Higher Efficiency Internal Combustion Engines through Thermochemical Recovery and Fuel Reforming

Chuahy, F. D. F. A Pathway to Higher Efficiency Internal Combustion Engines through Thermochemical Recovery and Fuel Reforming. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2018.

Dual fuel reactivity controlled compression ignition (RCCI) combustion is a promising method to achieve high efficiency with near zero NOx and soot emissions; however, the requirement to carry two fuels on-board has limited practical applications. Advancements in catalytic reforming have demonstrated the ability to generate syngas (a mixture of CO and hydrogen) from a single hydrocarbon stream. The reformed fuel mixture can then be used as a low reactivity fuel stream to enable RCCI out of a single parent fuel. Beyond enabling dual-fuel combustion strategies out of a single parent fuel, fuel reforming can be endothermic and allow recovery of exhaust heat to drive the reforming reactions, potentially improving overall efficiency of the system. Previous works have focused on using reformed fuel to extend the lean limit of spark ignited engines, and enhancing the control of HCCI type combustion. The strategy pairs naturally with advanced dual-fuel combustion strategies, and the use of dual-fuel strategies in the context of on-board reforming and energy recovery has not been explored. Accordingly, the work presented in this dissertation attempts to fill in the gaps in the current literature and provide a pathway to ?single? fuel RCCI combustion through a combination of experiments and computational fluid dynamics modeling.

Initially, a system level analysis focusing on three common reforming techniques (i.e., partial oxidation, steam reforming and auto-thermal reforming) was conducted to evaluate the potential of reformed fuel. A system layout was proposed for each reforming technique and a detailed thermodynamic analysis using first- and second-law approaches were used to identify the sources of efficiency improvements. The results showed that reformed fuel combustion with a near TDC injection of diesel fuel can increase engine-only efficiency by 4% absolute when compared to a conventional diesel baseline. The efficiency improvements were a result of reduced heat transfer and shorter, more thermodynamically efficient, combustion process. For exothermic reforming processes, losses in the reformer outweigh the improvements to engine efficiency, while for endothermic processes the recovery of exhaust energy was able to allow the system efficiency to retain a large portion of the benefits to the engine combustion. Energy flow analysis showed that the reformer temperature and availability of high grade exhaust heat were the main limiting factors preventing higher efficiencies.

RCCI combustion was explored experimentally for its potential to expand on the optimization results and achieve low soot and NOx emissions. The results showed that reformed fuel can be used with diesel to enable RCCI combustion and resulted in low NOx and soot emissions while achieving efficiencies similar to conventional diesel combustion. Experiments showed that the ratio H 2/(H2+CO) is an important parameter for optimal engine operation. Under part-load conditions, fractions of H2/(H2+CO) higher than 60% led to pressure oscillations inside the cylinder that substantially increased heat transfer and negated any efficiency benefits. The system analysis approach was applied to the experimental results and showed that chemical equilibrium limited operation of the engine to sub-optimal operating conditions. RCCI combustion was able to achieve ?diesel like? system level efficiencies without optimization of either the engine operating conditions or the combustion system. Reformed fuel RCCI was able to provide a pathway to meeting current and future emission targets with a reduction or complete elimination of aftertreatment costs. Particle size distribution experiments showed that addition of reformed fuel had a significant impact on the shape of the particle size distribution. Addition of reformed fuel reduced accumulation-mode particle concentration while increasing nucleation-mode particles. When considering the full range of particle sizes there was a significant increase in total particle concentration. However, when considering currently regulated (D m>23nm) particles, total concentration was comparable.

To address limitations identified in the system analysis of the RCCI experiments a solid oxide fuel cell was combined with the engine into a hybrid electrochemical combustion system. The addition of the fuel cell addresses the limitations by providing sufficient high grade heat to fully drive the reforming reactions. From a system level perspective, the impact of the high frequency oscillations observed in the experiments are reduced, as the system efficiency is less dependent on the engine efficiency. From an engine perspective, the high operating pressures and low reactivity of the anode gas allow reduction of the likelihood of such events. A 0-D system level code was developed and used to find representative conditions for experimental engine validation. The results showed that the system can achieve system electrical efficiencies higher than 70% at 1 MWe power level. Experimental validation showed that the engine was able to operate under both RCCI and HCCI combustion modes and resulted in low emissions and stable combustion. The potential of a hybrid electrochemical combustion system was demonstrated for high efficiency power generation.