Laminar burning speed calculation at high pressures is challenging because of unstable surface conditions at large flame kernel diameters. It is therefore desired to take these measurements at small dimensions (i.e., during and immediately after the ignition discharge process) when the flame kernel is smooth and stable. Taking accurate measurements at these sizes is challenging because the kernel growth rate does not only depend on the chemical reaction but also on other phenomena such as energy discharge, as well as radiative and conductive energy losses. The effect of these events has not been adequately assessed, due to the generation of ionized gas (i.e., plasma). In order to better understand the effect of the ignition plasma in this work, spark ignition in air for 1–5 atm of pressure is studied. Understanding the ignition event and modeling its behavior is important to capture accurate combustion measurements at pressures pertinent to the advanced high-pressure engines and technologies. The relationship between the electrical energy supplied to the spark and the thermal energy dissipated within a gas mixture has been studied. This work relates the electrical discharge power to the volume of the ignition kernel measured via schlieren imagery. Voltage and current data are also captured as the input to a thermodynamic model which is used to predict the volume versus time data of the spark event. The model, which utilizes measured electrical power, thermodynamic properties of ionized air, and radiation losses in air show agreement with the experimental kernel measurements in terms of overall shape of the volume data within the measured kernel uncertainty. With these results and further experimental validation the present model is considered to represent the relationship between the electrical spark power and the measured ignition kernel volume. Future work will be done to determine inaccuracies present in the arc discharge regime as well as the effectiveness of the model in combustible media.

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