Comparing Cetane Number Measurement Methods: Paper No. ICEF2020-3017

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3 Scopus Citations


Cetane number is one of the most important fuel performance metrics for mixing controlled compression-ignition “diesel” engines, quantifying a fuel’s propensity for autoignition when injected into end-of-compression-type temperature and pressure conditions. The historical default and referee method on a Cooperative Fuel Research (CFR) engine configured with indirect fuel injection and variable compression ratio is cetane number (CN) rating. A subject fuel is evaluated against primary reference fuel blends, with heptamethylnonane defining a low-reactivity endpoint of CN = 15 and hexadecane defining a high-reactivity endpoint of CN = 100. While the CN scale covers the range from zero (0) to 100, typical testing is in the range of 30 to 65 CN. Alternatively, several constant-volume combustion chamber (CVCC)-based cetane rating devices have been developed to rate fuels with an equivalent derived cetane number (DCN) or indicated cetane number (ICN). These devices measure ignition delay for fuel injected into a fixed volume of high-temperature and high-pressure air to simulate end-of-compression-type conditions. In this study, a range of novel fuel compounds are evaluated across three CVCC methods: the Ignition Quality Tester (IQT), Fuel Ignition Tester (FIT), and Advanced Fuel Ignition Delay Analyzer (AFIDA). Resulting DCNs and ICNs are compared for fuels within the normal diesel fuel range of reactivity, as well as very high (~100) and very low DCNs/ICNs (~5). Distinct differences between results from various devices are discussed. This is important to consider because some new, high-efficiency advanced compression-ignition (CI) engine combustion strategies operate with more kinetically controlled distributed combustion as opposed to mixing controlled diffusion flames. These advanced combustion strategies may benefit from new fuel chemistries, but current rating methods of CN, DCN, and ICN may not fully describe their performance. In addition, recent evidence suggests ignition delay in modern on-road diesel engines with high-pressure common rail fuel injection systems may no longer directly correlate to traditional CN fuel ratings. Simulated end-of-compression conditions are compared for CN, DCN, and ICN and discussed in the context of modern diesel engines to provide additional insight. Results highlight the potential need for revised and/or multiple fuel test conditions to measure fuel performance for advanced CI strategies.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2020
EventASME 2020 Internal Combustion Engine Division Fall Technical Conference -
Duration: 4 Nov 20206 Nov 2020


ConferenceASME 2020 Internal Combustion Engine Division Fall Technical Conference

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5400-76931


  • cetane
  • engine
  • fuel
  • ignition


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