In-Cylinder Thermal Barrier Coatings

Hannu Jääskeläinen, W. Addy Majewski

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Abstract: Thermal barrier coatings originally developed for adiabatic or low heat rejection engines have been shown to reduce diesel emissions. Reported results indicate that in-cylinder coatings are capable of reducing the carbonaceous fraction of diesel particulates without increasing NOx or other regulated emissions. Reductions in total PM emissions may be achieved by combining thermal barrier coatings with diesel oxidation catalysts. In-cylinder coatings are most effective in reducing emissions from older technology engines of relatively low thermal efficiency.

Thermal Barrier Coatings and Engine Performance

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 [700]. 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 [146][144] report potential emission benefits, some [143][145] 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.

Table 1. Effect of ceramic coatings on emissions
EmissionEffect of Coating
Total Particulate MatterNo significant change
 - solid particulate fraction (carbon)Significant decrease*
 - organic particulate fraction (SOF)Increase
Visible SmokeDecrease
Nitrogen OxidesNo change or slight decrease
HydrocarbonsSlight increase
Carbon MonoxideDecrease
* decreases of up to 50% demonstrated in heavy-duty, 2-stroke urban bus engines