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Fuel 97 (2012) 856–861

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The impact of varying spark timing at different octane numbers on the

performance and emission characteristics in a gasoline engine
Cenk Sayin ⇑
Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology, Marmara University, 34722 Istanbul, Turkey

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The performance and emissions of gasoline engine using different research octane number (RON) gaso-
Received 18 January 2012 lines (91, 93, 95 97, and 98 RON) at varying spark timing (ST) has been presented in this paper. For this
Received in revised form 28 February 2012 work, a single cylinder, four stroke, naturally aspirated spark ignition engine requiring gasoline fuel with
Accepted 7 March 2012
95 RON was used. The original (ORG) ST of the engine is 23 °CA BTDC. The tests were conducted for three
Available online 21 March 2012
different STs (20 °CA BTDC, 23 °CA BTDC, and 26 °CA BTDC) by varying cam positions mechanically.
Results showed that using RONs higher than the requirement of an engine not only decreased brake ther-
mal efficiency (BTE) but also increased brake specific fuel consumption (BSFC), the emissions of carbon
Exhaust emissions
Engine performance
monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbon (HC) at ORG ST. On the other hand, with the increased ST (26 °CA BTDC);
Spark timing BSFC, the emissions of HC and CO decreased, and BTE boosted for higher RON.
Octane number Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction effect of gasoline octane number on the engine performance and

emissions. In that work, three different octane ratings (95, 97
In the research studies on spark ignition (SI) engine fuels, the and 100 RON) were investigated in a SI engine which requires
aim is to improve the fuel properties, to decrease the engine fuel 95-RON gasoline. The results showed that the minimum BSFC
consumption, to augment engine power and to diminish the un- was obtained with 95-RON. In addition to this CO and HC emis-
wanted exhaust emissions. Considerable progress has been made sions were increased, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions were de-
in the SI engine over its more than 100-years history. Examples creased with higher RON gasoline.
[1,2] include the adaptation of SI engines for emission control sys- Sudsanguan and Chanchaowna [12] investigated the influence
tems, advancing engine design and improving fuel properties. Fur- of gasoline octane number on effective power and BSFC. In that re-
thermore, in recent years, researchers [3,4] have interested in search, the engine which requires 91-RON was tested with 91-RON
octane number because exhaust emissions and engine perfor- and 95-RON. Results confirmed that the BSFC using 95-RON is
mance are known to have a very close relationship with octane higher than that of 91-RON. Additionally, it has been seen in this
number. study that using octane number gasoline higher than the engine
Gasoline is the most important fuel for the SI internal combus- requirement did not augment the effective power.
tion engine. It consists of numerous compounds that can be For a SI engine, ST is a major parameter that affects the combus-
broadly classified into the hydrocarbon groups of paraffins, aro- tion and exhaust emissions. The period between the spark firing
matics, and olefins. Increasing fuel efficiency, changing its attri- and the complete combustion of the fuel/air mix is very short –
butes and progressing features are the major research areas in on average only about 2 ms. Ignition of the fuel/air mix must take
the automotive industry. The octane number of gasoline is one of place sufficiently early for the peak pressure caused by the com-
the most important parameter that determines the fuel quality. bustion which should occur just as the piston has passed top dead
The effect of octane number on detonation has been investigated center, and so it is on its way down the cylinder bore. If the ignition
by several researchers since the octane number of a gasoline is a occurs a little too early, the piston will be slowed in its upward
measure of its resistance to detonation [5–10]. movement, and if it occurs too late then the piston will already
Significant amount of researches have been carried out on the be moving downwards, so the work done on it will be reduced. If
effects of octane number on the performance and exhaust emis- the spark occurs much too early, the ignition pressure wave can
sions of SI engines. Celikten and Korkmaz [11] investigated the ignite the mixture in various parts of the combustion chamber,
causing detonation [13].
⇑ Address: Department of Automotive Engineering Technology, Marmara Several studies have showed that the ST affects the engine per-
University, 34722 Istanbul, Turkey. Tel.: +90 216 3365770; fax: +90 216 3378987. formance exhaust emissions of SI engines. Alasfour [14] investi-
E-mail addresses:, gated the effect of varying STs on NOx emissions, exhaust

0016-2361/$ - see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
C. Sayin / Fuel 97 (2012) 856–861 857

temperatures and BTEs in a SI engine fueled with a 30% isobutanol– by K type thermocouples. CO, CO2 and HC emissions were mea-
gasoline blend. The tests were conducted for three different STs sured with an infrared gas analyzer (Bilsa Mod 210) with an accu-
(20, 23 and 27 °CA BTDC). Results demonstrated that the increased racy of ±%0.01, ±%0.01, and ±1 ppm, respectively. NOx emissions
ST raised BTE. For a lean mixture, the increased ST had a great ef- were recorded using an electrochemical gas analyzer (Qintox
fect on the increase level of the NOx. KM9106) with an accuracy of ±1 ppm.
Topgül et al. [15] examined the effects of using unleaded gaso- The ORG ST of the engine is 23 °CA BTDC and experiments were
line (E0) and unleaded gasoline–ethanol blends (E10, E20, E40 and carried out at three different STs (20, 23 and 26 °CA BTDC). The ST
E60) on engine performance and exhaust emissions. The experi- can be varied mechanically. The contact breaker points and the
ments were performed by varying the STs at a constant speed of condenser of the ignition circuit are fixed on a bakelite disk. The
2000 rpm and full load. The experimental results showed that disc is mounted on the engine camshaft over which a small cam
the decreased ST reduced the exhaust temperature, effective power is made to operate the contact breaker points. The angular position
and increased the BSFC, HC and CO emissions. of the contact breaker points with respect to the cam determines
From the literature review, the influence of ST such as de- the ST and it could be altered by a suitably designed linkage which
creased or increased ST, on the emission and performance charac- is provided on the engine test rig. Experiments were conducted at
teristics of a SI engine has not been clearly studied when using steady states for five different speeds (1000–3000 rpm with
different RON gasoline. Thus, this study concentrates on investiga- 500 rpm intervals) with an engine load of 20 Nm. At each operation
tion of ST and octane number on performance and emission char- mode, the engine was sufficiently warmed up for each test, and the
acteristics of SI engine and in determining the optimum value of ST engine oil temperature was maintained around 80–85 °C before
for maximum BTE and minimum BSFC, NOx, CO and HC emissions the data were corrected.
at different octane numbers.

3. Result and discussion

2. Experimental
3.1. CO emissions
The test performed on a one-cylinder, four stroke, KG-type and
0.389 cc gasoline engine, which originally requires 95-RON gaso- CO emission is toxic and must be controlled. It is an intermedi-
line. Test set-up is shown in Fig. 1. The engine has a cylinder bore ate product in the combustion of a hydrocarbon fuel, so its emis-
of 88 mm, a stroke of 64 mm, a compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a sion results from incomplete combustion. Emission of CO is
maximum power output of 7.7 kW. Tested fuels’ commercial therefore greatly dependent on the air–fuel ratio. A rich combus-
grades were 91, 93, 95, 97 and 98-RON. Details of the gasoline tion invariably produces CO, and emissions increase nearly linearly
compositions and properties are given in Table 1. In order to deter- with the deviation from the stoichiometric [16]. CO emission re-
mine the engine torque, the shaft of the test engine is coupled to an sults are presented in Figs. 2 and 3 for different engine speeds
electrical dynamometer, which is loaded by electrical resistance. A and STs, respectively. Fig. 2 shows that, minimum CO emissions
strain load sensor was employed to determine the load on the were obtained with 95 RON gasoline at ORG ST. As demonstrated
dynamometer. The engine speed was measured by electromagnetic in Fig. 4, the higher peak temperature results more complete com-
speed sensor installed on dynamometer. Fuel consumption was bustion occurs with 95 RON and less CO emissions.
quantified by combined container method. The pressure time his- Because the fuel’s chemical energy is not fully released inside
tory of cylinder was measured by a Kistler Model 6052B air-cooled the engine during the combustion process, it is useful to define
piezo-quartz pressure sensor which was mounted on the cylinder combustion efficiency. Thus, the combustion efficiency was calcu-
head. The cylinder signals were then passed onto Kistler Model lated for the tested fuels in the engine. The combustion energy
5644A charge amplifier. Crankshaft position was obtained using a losses take into account the energy required to form NO, NO2
crankshaft angle sensor to determine cylinder pressure as a func- and the energy lost owing to incomplete oxidation of CO to CO2
tion of crank angle. The crank angle signal was obtained from an and UHC fuel to CO2 and H2O. The enthalpy of formation for H2O
angle-generating device mounted on the main shaft. The signal and CO2 from fuel oxidation was not calculated theoretically, in-
of cylinder pressure was acquired for every 0.75 °CA and acquisi- stead the LHV was used. Each enthalpy of formation calculation
tion process covered 100 completed cycles. The temperatures of is mass specific to the emission quantity measured during the en-
air inlet, exhaust gas engine outlet, and engine oil were measured gine testing [17].

Fig. 1. Test set-up.

858 C. Sayin / Fuel 97 (2012) 856–861

Table 1
Properties of the gasoline fuels with different RONs used in the tests [23].

91 RON 93 RON 95 RON 97 RON 98 RON

Density at 15 °C (g/cm ) 0.738 0.741 0.745 0.765 0.783
Reid vapor pressure (kPa) 59.34 59.72 60.03 60.03 60.04
Boiling temperature (°C) 198.9 201.0 209.0 210.0 212.0
Tetra alkyl lead (gPb/l) 0.104 0.222 0.340 0.0005 0.0005
Lower heating value (kJ/kg) 43,932 43,642 43,304 43,961 43,989

2 The enthalpy of formation for the measured exhaust emissions

is used to calculate the combustion efficiency in accordance with
1.8 equation below.
93 LHVfuel  HNO NO  HNO2 NO2  HCO CO  LHVfuel UHC
1.6 gcombustion ¼
95 LHVfuel
CO (g/kWh)

1.4 97
where gcombustion is the combustion efficiency, LHVfuel is lower heat-
ing value of the fuel (kJ/kg-fuel), HNO is enthalpy formation of NO
(kJ/g-NO), HNO2 is enthalpy formation of NO2 (kJ/g-NO2), HCO is en-
thalpy formation of CO (kJ/g-CO), NO is exhaust emission level of
NO (g/kg-fuel), NO2 is exhaust emission level of NO2 (g/kg-fuel),
500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 CO is exhaust emission level of CO (g/kg-fuel), and HC is the exhaust
Engine speed (rpm) emission level of UHC (kg/kg-fuel).
The CO emission, together with the amount of unburned carbon
Fig. 2. CO emission results at different engine speeds (ORG spark timing).
in the engine cylinder, are major variables affecting the combus-
tion efficiency of the system. As demonstrate in Eq. (1), decreasing
CO emissions increases combustion efficiency. 95 RON gasoline
burn more completely, thus increases combustion efficiency. As
depicted in Table 2, Maximum combustion efficiency was obtained
at 99.58%, 99.56%, 99.78%, 99.71% and, 99.68 for 91 RON, 93 RON,
1 95
95 RON, 97 RON and M15 for the 2500 RPM and ORG ST,
CO (g/kWh)

Increased engine speed decreased the values of CO. Increase in
0.9 speed could probably augment volumetric efficiency, boosting tur-
bulence in combustion chamber hence ensure better combustion
[17]. Minimum CO was found as 0.71 g/kWh with the 95 RON at
0.8 maximum speed (3000 rpm) and ORG ST. Fig. 3 illustrates the CO
emissions with different RON gasoline at different STs for
2500 rpm. From this Figure, it was concluded that increased ST de-
creased the CO emission for 97 and 98 RON gasolines, resulting in
17 20 23 26 29 producing the higher cylinder temperature as illustrated in Fig. 4.
o The rising the temperature increases oxidation process between
Spark Timing ( CA BTDC)
carbon and oxygen molecules. These lead to a decrease in CO emis-
Fig. 3. CO emission results at different spark timing (2500 rpm). sions. For instance, CO values was determined as 0.93 g/kWh,
0.89 g/kWh, and 0.82 g/kWh for 97 RON gasoline at 20, 23, and
26 °CA BTDC ST, respectively.
91 3.2. HC emissions
Exhaust gas temperature (o C)

95 Unburned HC emissions consist of fuel that is incompletely
97 burned. The term HC means organic compounds in the gaseous
110 98
Table 2
100 Combustion efficiency results of the fuels at different engine speed (ORG spark

Combustion efficiency (%)

1000 rpm 1500 rpm 2000 rpm 2500 rpm 3000 rpm
91 RON 98.76 99.11 99.08 99.58 99.27
80 93 RON 98.94 99.10 99.15 99.56 99.36
17 20 23 26 29
95 RON 99.06 99.18 99.29 99.78 99.54
Spark timing (oCA BTDC) 97 RON 98.87 99.12 99.16 99.71 99.45
98 RON 98.85 99.03 99.15 99.68 99.48
Fig. 4. Exhaust gas temperatures at different spark timing (2500 rpm).
C. Sayin / Fuel 97 (2012) 856–861 859

state; solid hydrocarbons are part of the particulate matter. As cyl- 0.62
inder temperature increases HC emissions reduce. Typically, un- 91
burned HCs are seriously problem at light loads in gasoline 93
engines. At light loads the fuel is less apt to impinge on surfaces; 0.57
but, because of poor fuel distribution, large amounts of excess air 97
and low exhaust temperature, lean fuel–air mixture regions may

HC (g/kWh)
0.52 98
survive to escape into the exhaust [18]. The influence of octane
number on HC emission can be clearly seen in Fig. 5 at ORG ST.
95 RON gasoline leaded to higher combustion temperature as seen 0.47
in Fig. 4 and therefore higher combustion quality. Also, the other
reason may be that the collision frequency among molecules in-
creases with 95 RON, which leads that the fuel in the crevices 0.42
and walls quenching can be combusted better than that of the oth-
ers RON gasolines. HC concentration generally decreased with
increasing engine speed. Increasing the engine speed improve the 17 20 23 26 29
volumetric efficiency and promote a more homogeneous mixture Spark timing (oCA BTDC)
in the combustion chamber, thus a decrease in the HC emissions
was observed [19]. Minimum HC was obtained as 0.71 g/kWh with Fig. 6. HC emission results at different spark timing (2500 rpm).
the 95 RON at 2500 rpm and ORG ST.
Fig. 6 shows the variation of the HC emissions with different
RON at different STs for the 2500 rpm. As demonstrated in Fig. 4, RON98
increasing the ST increases combustion temperature for 97 and
5.5 20 oCA BTDC RON97
98 RON gasolines. The higher combustion temperature promotes Decreased ST RON95

Cylinder Gas Pressure (MPa)

more complete combustion and thus there are less HC emissions. RON93
In other words, decreasing combustion temperature will reduce 5
HC post-flame oxidation during the expansion stroke [20]. For
example, HC values was found as 0.57 g/kWh, 0.48 g/kWh, and 4.5
0.41 g/kWh for 97 RON gasoline at 20, 23, and 26 °CA BTDC ST,
respectively. 4

3.3. Peak Cylinder Gas Pressure
To analyze the cylinder gas pressure, the pressure data of 100
cycles with a resolution 0.75 °CA was averaged and then used. Figs.
7–9 illustrate with respect to crank angle for decreased, ORG, and -40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50
increased ST, respectively, at 2500 rpm. As seen in the Fig. 8, max- Crank Angle (o)
imum peak cylinder gas pressure was obtained with 95 RON gaso-
Fig. 7. Cylinder gas pressure versus CA at decreased spark timing for (2500 rpm).
line at ORG ST. The peak cylinder pressure was occurred 5.17, 5.49,
5.63, 5.41 and 5.29 MPa for 91, 93, 95, 97 and 98 RON gasoline at
ORG ST, respectively. High octane means resistance to detonation 6.5
under compression. If fuel detonates too soon, it will not to work RON98
on the piston at right time. Low octane has higher percentage of 6 ORG ST
n-heptane, which detonates under compression before the spark RON95
Cylinder Gas Pressure (MPa)

triggers it, thus doing less cylinder gas pressure on the piston. 5.5 RON93
Reduction of peak cylinder pressure indicates of deterioration of RON91
engine cylinder. As a result, as shown in Figs. 2 and 5, CO and HC
93 3.5
HC (g/kWh)

0.7 98 2.5
-40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50
Crank Angle ( o)
Fig. 8. Cylinder gas pressure versus CA at ORG spark timing for (2500 rpm).

emissions increased with using higher and lower RON gasoline
than the engine requirement at ORG ST.
0.4 It may be noticed from Fig. 9 that increased the ST generally in-
500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500
creases the maximum cylinder gas pressure for 97 and 98 RON gas-
Engine speed (rpm)
oline. The peak cylinder pressure was obtained with 5.11, 5.32,
Fig. 5. HC emission results at different engine speeds (ORG spark timing). 5.48, 6.19 and 6.23 MPa for 91, 93, 95, 97 and 98 RON gasoline at
860 C. Sayin / Fuel 97 (2012) 856–861

6.5 255
o 91
6 Inreased ST 93
Cylinder Gas Pressure (MPa)

5.5 RON93 97

BSFC (g/kWh)
RON91 98



3 215
17 20 23 26 29
2.5 Spark timing (oCA BTDC)
-40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50
Crank Angle (o) Fig. 11. BSFC results at different spark timing (2500 rpm).

Fig. 9. Cylinder gas pressure versus CA at increased spark timing for (2500 rpm).
cylinder at the end of the compression stroke is too much; if ST de-
creases, the peak cylinder pressure is reduced, and the expansion
increased ST, respectively. Higher pressure means a better combus-
stroke work transfer from the gas to the piston decreases [16].
tion phase due to improving knock tolerance of higher RON of gas-
Therefore, BSFC augments. However, increased ST reduced BSFC
oline. Thus, as seen in Figs. 3 and 6, CO and HC emissions decreased
values for 97 and 98 RON gasolines. The higher RON of gasoline in-
with higher RON gasoline at increased ST.
creased ignition delay and improved knock tolerance at increased
ST. For instance, BSFC values was determined as 249 g/kWh,
229 g/kWh, and 221 g/kWh for 98 RON gasoline at 20, 23, and 26
3.4. Brake specific fuel consumption (BSFC)
°CA BTDC ST, respectively.

The BSFC is defined as the ratio of mass fuel consumption to the

brake power [21]. BSFC values are illustrated in Figs. 10 and 11 for 3.5. Brake thermal efficiency (BTE)
different engine speeds and STs, respectively. It can be seen that
the trend of BSFC using 95-RON is slightly lower than that of the The BTE is defined as the ratio of the brake power to fuel con-
other RON’s gasolines at ORG ST. If an excessive octane rating gas- sumption and lower heating value (LHV). BTE indicates the ability
oline higher than the engine requirement is used, the ignition de- of the combustion system to accept the experimental fuel, and pro-
lay will be longer and the speed of the flame will be lower. These vides comparable means of assessing how efficient the energy in
cause a reduction of the maximum pressure and engine output the fuel was converted to mechanical output. BTE results are
power. Therefore, fuel consumption per output power will in- shown in Figs. 12 and 13 for different engine speeds and STs,
crease. On the other hand, the low RON of the gasoline will become respectively. The 95 RON gasoline at 2500 rpm for the ORG ST pro-
less resistance to auto-ignition compared to 95 RON gasoline. This duced the highest BTE as 37%. The higher BTE for 95 RON operation
effect increased BSFC, caused by the deterioration of combustion can be attributed to its BSFC. From the previous discussion, it could
phase [22]. The obtained test results confirmed these statements. be concluded that minimum BSFC obtained from 95 RON gasoline
Minimum BSFC was attained with the 95 RON for the ORG ST. at ORG ST.
Starting at the minimum BSFC point, increasing or decreasing The maximum BTE was acquired as 38.1% with the 98 RON gas-
speed increased BSFC due to primarily reduced volumetric effi- oline for 26 °CA BTDC ST. When the ST was increased, knock occur-
ciency. As illustrated in Fig. 11, increased or decreased ST increased rence was observed with 91, 93 and 95 RON gasolines. On the other
BSFC values compared to ORG ST for 91, 93 and 95 RON gasoline. If hand, knock occurrence was not observed with higher RON gaso-
ST increases, the work transfer from the piston to the gases in the line at increased ST. Increasing RON allowed an increase in the

310 0.4
91 91
290 93 0.37 93
95 95
BSFC (g/kWh)

97 97
270 0.34
BTE (%)

98 98

250 0.31

230 0.28

210 0.25
500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500
Engine speed (rpm) Engine Speed (rpm)

Fig. 10. BSFC results at different engine speeds (ORG spark timing). Fig. 12. BTE results at different engine speeds (ORG spark timing).
C. Sayin / Fuel 97 (2012) 856–861 861

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