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Thermal barrier coatings (TBC) were originally developed and commercialized for gas turbine and jet engine applications. Many investigations have been conducted on various aspects of applying such coatings to the walls of combustion chamber in internal combustion engines. The prime objective which has been sought is to achieve higher thermal efficiencies by reduction of heat rejection from the combustion chamber. Experiments with diesel and gasoline engines suggest that thin coatings produce higher engine efficiency than thick coatings, in spite of being less effective as heat insulators . This behavior of TBCs has not been satisfactorily explained. It is believed that some detailed heat transfer characteristics must have a more profound effect on thermodynamic efficiency than the overall heat rejection rate from the engine.
Besides improved thermal efficiency, additional potential advantages of TBCs include improved engine durability, reduction in erosion and corrosion, less internal friction, lowered noise and reductions in exhaust emissions. A lot of work has been done on evaluating the effects of in-cylinder coatings on diesel engine performance and emissions. The results have been inconclusive and often contradictory. While most of published studies  report potential emission benefits, some  claim that the coatings have detrimental effects on fuel mixing and combustion, thus, deteriorating the performance and emissions. There is a significant variability in the coating effect between different engine types. The emission benefit of coatings appears to be related to their enhancing effect on the thermal efficiency of the engine. Therefore, higher emission effectiveness of coatings may have been possible in older technology engines which were characterized by relatively low thermal efficiency.
Effects of TBCs on particular diesel emissions compiled from published experimental data are listed in Table 1.
|Emission||Effect of Coating|
|Total Particulate Matter||No significant change|
|- solid particulate fraction (carbon)||Significant decrease*|
|- organic particulate fraction (SOF)||Increase|
|Nitrogen Oxides||No change or slight decrease|
|* decreases of up to 50% demonstrated in heavy-duty, 2-stroke urban bus engines|