A diesel engine with a catalytic piston surface to propel small aircraft at high altitudes—a theoretical study

Kadmiel Karsenty, Leonid Tartakovsky, Eran Sher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to the oxygen shortage at high altitudes, the use of diesel engines in small aircraft is limited to a low ceiling level. Here, we propose to significantly extend the ceiling level by introducing an in-cylinder steam reforming system. In this arrangement, the fuel direct-injection assembly comprises of a two-stage process. In the first stage, a blend of methanol and water is injected into the hot previously compressed cylinder charge onto an in-cylinder catalyst. Residual heat is absorbed due to the blend evaporation and the steam-reforming process to produce hydrogen. In the second stage, diesel fuel with a lower ignition temperature than the hydrogen fuel is injected to initiate combustion, while the absorbed heat (from the first stage) is released through the hydrogen oxidation. Essentially, the absorbed heat is exploited to produce extra hydrogen fuel, which increases the cycle efficiency. In this arrangement, the in-cylinder oxygen content is significantly increased due to the additional oxygen atoms that are included in the methanol and in particular in the water molecules. These are released when the methanol and water are decomposed during the steam-reforming process. We show that owing to the addition of the oxygen content in the cylinder, the flight ceiling level can be extended from 5000 to 9000 ft, and that the indicated efficiency can be increase up to 6%.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1905
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Diesel engine
  • Flight ceiling
  • In-cylinder steam reforming
  • Small aircraft

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Control and Optimization
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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