Laser ignition is considered the prime alternative to conventional coil based ignition for improving efficiency and simultaneously reducing NOx emissions in lean-burn natural gas fired stationary reciprocating engines. In this paper, Argonne’s efforts towards the development of a viable laser ignition system are presented. The relative merits of various implementation strategies for laser based ignition are discussed. Finally, the performance improvements required for some of the components for successful field implementation are listed. Also reported are efforts to determine the relative merit of laser ignition over conventional Capacitance Discharge Ignition (CDI) ignition. Emissions and performance data of a large-bore single cylinder research engine are compared while running with laser ignition and the industry standard CDI system. It was primarily noticed that NOx emissions reduce by 50% under full load conditions with up to 65% reductions noticed under part load conditions. Also, the lean ignition limit was significantly extended and laser ignition improved combustion stability under all operating conditions. Other noticeable differences in combustion characteristics are also presented. Efforts wherein ignition was achieved while transmitting the high-power laser pulses through optical fibers showed performance improvements similar those achieved by using free-space laser ignition.

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