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Researchers Propose New Combustion System For DME Engine: CCCI

Comparison of fuel consumption and emissions with a variation of CO2 in the air charge in CCCI combustion. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China are developing a new combustion system for an engine fueled with dimethyl ether (DME): compound charge compression ignition (CCCI). The CCCI combustion process consists of HCCI (homogeneous charge compression ignition) combustion, premixing combustion, and diffusion combustion. The combustion characteristics are mainly decided by the premixed fuel ratio and CO2 concentration in the air charge.

In comparison to HCCI combustion mode for DME, CCCI combustion can extend the operating range with accompanying low NOx, hydrocarbon (HC), and CO emissions. They report on their work in the journal Energy & Fuels.

There is particular interest in China in exploring the use of DME—an LPG-like synthetic fuel that is produced through gasification of coal or various renewable substances—as a substitute for diesel. (Earlier post.) The Shanghai Jiao Tong team notes that diesel engines using DME as a fuel can achieve high thermal efficiency with lower emissions. However a tradeoff relation exists between NOx emissions and thermal efficiency for a diesel engine fueled with DME using a conventional in-cylinder direction-injection combustion mode.

While HCCI combustion offers the potential for the simultaneous reduction of exhaust gas emissions as well as fuel consumption, it also has problems hindering its commercialization, notably the difficulty in controlling initiation timing and extending the load range.

HCCI combustion with DME shows a very low NOx emissions, but CO and HC emissions turn out to be high. It can be found that a conventional in-cylinder direct-injection combustion and HCCI combustion with DME have opposite advantages and disadvantages.

Taking advantage of HCCI combustion and in-cylinder direct injection combustion for a diesel engine fueled with DME, a new combustion concept, namely, compound charge compression ignition (CCCI) combustion by port aspiration and direct injection of DME, is proposed in this paper. In this concept, a portion of fuel is aspirated into the combustion chamber via the air intake port to cause HCCI combustion at the compression stroke because of its high volatility of DME, and the remainder of the fuel is injected by a conventional inline fuel pump. As a result, CCCI combustion happens, which includes HCCI combustion at first and in-cylinder spray combustion later.

DME HCCI combustion shows very low NOx emission levels, and the in-cylinder injection can control the combustion and provide more engine output. The evaporation rate for fuel drops in the DME spray is much faster after HCCI combustion, which reduces the burning time, decreases the charge heterogeneity, and therefore, reduces NOx formation in the phase of the mixing controlled combustion.

The researchers modified a two-cylinder, four-stroke naturally aspirated high-speed DI diesel engine to conduct their CCCI combustion tests. To improve combustion and reduce emissions, they regulated the ratio of port-aspirated DME to injected DME in the cylinder. To control the ignition and combustion phase of HCCI engines, reduce engine knock, and expand the engine load range, the port-aspirated DME was mixed with liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which has a good antiknock property. They also investigated the effect of the percentage LPG percentage in DME/LPG blended fuel on combustion characteristics. To further reduce NOx emissions, they used port introduction of CO2 to function as EGR to evaluate the effect of EGR on CCCI combustion and emission characteristics.

They found that with an increase of the premixed fuel ratio, CO emissions increased first but decreased later and NOx emissions decreased first but increased later. Meanwhile, DME fuel consumption suffered from improper combustion phasing.

Advancing the injection timing with the same premixed fuel ratio increased peak values of in-cylinder temperature and pressure and advanced the beginning of combustion of in-cylinder-injected fuel. NOx emissions increased, but HC and CO emissions decreased. As a result, the thermal efficiency was improved.

After port aspiration of the DME/LPG-blended fuel, at the same load, peak values of in-cylinder temperature and pressure decreased gradually when compared to neat DME.

With the increase of the LPG percentage in the blended fuel, NOx emissions decreased and thermal efficiency was improved at 0.35 MPa IMEP with a high premixed fuel ratio. Fuel consumption was decreased at 0.525 MPa IMEP for all premixed ratios.

Finally, the found that with an appropriate CO2 concentration in air charge, the HCCI-MK combustion concept for CCCI combustion engines can lower NOx emissions to near-zero levels.

The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and a specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program, The Ministry of Education.

In march, General Motors Corp. and Shanghai Jiao Tong University established the General Motors-Shanghai Jiao Tong University (GM-SJTU) Institute of Automotive Research. The US$4-million organization, located on SJTU’s campus in Shanghai, will build on the existing collaborative automotive technology and research work in manufacturing, materials, propulsion systems and other energy-efficient automotive technology conducted at the university. (Earlier post.)


  • Junjun Zhang, Xinqi Qiao, Bin Guan, Zhen Wang, Guangei Xiao, and Zhen Huang (2008) Search for the Optimizing Control Method of Compound Charge Compression Ignition (CCCI) Combustion in an Engine Fueled with Dimethyl Ether, ASAP Energy Fuels, doi: 10.1021/ef700781w


Saul Rosenberg

Designer fuel is back!


How economical and green is DME?


You can make DME from biomass:

"DME—an LPG-like synthetic fuel that is produced through gasification of coal or various renewable substances—as a substitute for diesel."

Biomass to syngas to methane or methanol or DME. But it will probably be made from natural gas.


DME (CH3-0-CH3) is usually either directly produced from natural gas or indirectly by producing it from methanol. Since you could as well produce methanol from biomass you could make it "green".
DME is a potential substitute for Diesel due to its high cetane number. (should result in lower mileage due to the lower LHV ~34%)

Hybrid fan

"How ... green is DME?"

It's not an issue. This is a Chinese Government program. Like rainforest biodiesel, if the price is right, it will happen. At least in China.


If the country in discussion is China, then the source material will be coal. Coal is the cheapest energy source in China. You can think this as China's research into how to replace imported oil with coal.


DME is the cleanest fuel after CH4 it is the same formula as ethanol but with no Carbon Carbon link in the molecule, but it is a gaz that could be liquefied with only 3 bars of pressure, almost a liquid in fact.

Hybrid fan

Does anybody really think that coal to liquids is a clean alternative fuel technology when done by China, but dirty dirty dirty when the US does it? Why?


Hi All,

And Think, with the dry ice in the back, (to provide the CO2 charge for the engine) you wont need a seperate AC unit for those balmy Shanghai summers.


DME might be good in a diesel hybrid. If you could make it from NG at the fueling station, you could pipe the gas and make the LPG. Probably not practical though.

Andrey Levin


DME could be miracle substitute for diesel oil.

Sprayed into intake air it vaporizes and makes homogenous air-fuel mixture without sticking to cylinder walls – ideal for HCCI, unlike conventional diesel. With proper cooling, it is still liquid in conventional in-cylinder diesel fuel injector. Hawing high cetane number, it could be used in regular CI mode of operation.

Such unique properties could be used to facilitate “timing” of HCCI combustion: proper homogenous mixture of DME vapor, air, and recirculated exhaust could be with minimal compression ignition delay “fired” by small injection of liquid DME near TDC. Pressure wave (not combustion front like in SI engine) from ignited droplet of liquid DME almost instaneously provokes “cold” ignition of charge. Thus combustion process could be controlled and precisely timed, with very low NOx emissions and higher than regular diesel thermal efficiency.

Because carbon chain in DME is interrupted by oxygen atom, combustion is virtually soot-free. Some level of unburned HC and CO could be burned-off on conventional and inexpencive oxidation catalyst. In addition, if spilled, DME evaporates and does not contaminate soil and groundwater, and oxidizes into air in just couple of days.

DME mostly is synthesized from methanol (predominantly produced from natural gas), and could be produced from biogas. Other source are also available: coal, refinery coke, and dry biomass (methanol once was named “wood alcohol” because it was produced by wood distillation; both Germany and Japan produced methanol in bulk during WW2). Also there are some microorganisms which brew methanol from wet biomass.


Leave it to the Chinese to do what America could not nor would not do. Looks like they will go from the 3rd in Biofuels in the world to number 1. Lets keep up the good work here at home. Deceit, destruction and demise the goal of big oil.

olli pyynönen

intrested, what is the difference between LPG and DME? How is LPG possible to use in common-rail-diesel engine>diesel autoignition 210Celcius, LPG autoignition 450Celsius deg? Does the diesel compression enough for LPG heat? What is autoignition Ce degree for DME? DME chemical formula, LPG C3H8+C4H10...

John McGlynn

So the key (for China) is productions from coal. Can it be used in power plants instead of coal? How is it produced. Is the process clean, or much cleaner than burning coal directly for an equivalent ennergy output?

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