Combustion Research Vessel

Personnel Involved
Dr. Jeff Naber, Principal Investigator
Dr. Seong-Young Lee
Jeremy Worm, Research Engineer
Sam Johnson, GRA, MS, ME
Chris Morgan, GRA, MS, ME
Jaclyn Nesbitt, GRA, PhD., ME

Statement of Work
Development of Combustion Vessel for the Study of Gas and Dispersed Liquid Phase at Elevated Pressure and Temperature

Objectives/Goals of Research

Current effort is construction of a laboratory to support a pressure vessel with optical access which will form an integrated system together with the primary subsystems and instrumentation for the study of combustion and other processes.  This vessel will be able to withstand the pressures and temperatures that occur in the majority of combustion applications.  Data will be acquired for the comprehensive study of transport phenomena and thermo-chemical processes including combustion above super-critical conditions of many liquid fuels. Various issues will be examined using this laboratory, such as basic research in droplets and sprays, flammability and safety, spark-ignited and diesel fuel-air mixing and combustion, as well as bio- and alternative fuels mixing and combustion. 

This pressure vessel is highly configurable, with both direct line-of-sight and orthogonal optical access.  It is accompanied by a mixing manifold and vessel for creating custom, premixed gases and high pressure direct injection systems for both gases and liquids.  Safe operation for this system is ensured by having the laboratory remotely controlled and monitored. This vessel is unique since it will allow researchers to take data for complex processes occurring under conditions that are normally difficult to reach and observe. More specifically, the data to be acquired includes pressure, temperature, and gaseous concentrations. In addition, the unique optical access of the vessel enables characterization of droplet, spray, vaporization and soot.


Facilities (Location and Equipment)

Laboratory: Combustion Vessel Research Laboratory

Location: Alternative Energy Research Building (AERB) in Hancock, MI


  • High pressure (350 bar MAWP), high temperature (combustion temperatures >2000K) stainless steel combustion vessel with optical access through six window ports
  • single crystal sapphire windows for optical viewing into combustion chamber
  • Custom seven gas supply system with high pressure boost capability
  • ultra-high pressure multi-fuel compatible liquid fuel injection system capable of 4100 bar injection pressures and multipe fuel usage
  • programmable multi pulse solenoid injector driver
  • pulsed Nd:YAG laser and Argon ion laser which will be used for spray, combustion, and emission imaging
  • high speed ICCD camera capable of one million frames per second imaging with accompanying high intensity flash lamp
  • 2-D Aerometrics TSI phase Doppler particle analyzer system for fuel spray droplet velocity and size calculation
  • custom computer control and DAQ system for remote control of laboratory
  • exhaust gas analyzer and direct sampling combustion probe




Experimental Data Captured

Figure 1: Fuel Injection SOI and EOI – This image set shows the full duration of a fuel spray from a 400 kPa fuel injection event for a GM Flex Fuel PFI injector.  The images were captured using a Photron Ultima APX/RS 250 kHz ICCD high speed camera with high intensity flashlamp.  The fuel spray was lit from back and underneath, creating significant light refraction through the fuel droplets, thus illuminating the fuel spray against the dark background.


Figure 2: Impact of Injection Duration on Fuel Spray Penetration for 345 kPa injection pressure. Images were acquired with the Photron Ultima APX  RS high speed camera, with rear illumination provided by a flashlamp and two 15 million candle power spotlights. Increasing duration results in a faster fuel spray penetration, increased injected fuel mass, and larger and more developed spray structure and spray angle.

Figure 3: Impact of injection pressure on fuel spray. Images were acquired for a range of injection pressures, displayed in kPa above each image, using the Photron Ultima APX RS high speed camera. Exposure duration was 1 microsecond, with 15,000 frames per second acquired using rear illumination from a flash lamp and two fifteen million candlepower spotlights.

Figure 4: Image sequence of fuel injection using the LaVision UltraSpeedStar 16, a 1 MHz Intensified Charge Coupled Display high speed camera, with the same injector as seen in Figure 1, but at a lower injection pressure.


Figures/Pictures/other Images

Figure 1: High Pressure Fuel System

Figure 2: High Pressure Nitrogen Booster Pump

Figure 3: A) Combustion Vessel, Window Fixture with blank (left), gas valve (right); B) Interior View of 1.1 L Combustion Chamber; C) Sapphire Window which enables optical access to the combustion chamber.



National Science Foundation

Southwest Research Institute

A&D Technologies




Michigan Tech AICE Lab
R.L. Smith Building S013
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931

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