Ignition enhancement and NOx formation of NH3/air mixtures by non-equilibrium plasma discharge

Xingqian Mao, Hongtao Zhong, Ning Liu, Ziyu Wang, Yiguang Ju

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This work computationally studies plasma assisted low temperature NH3/air ignition and NOx formation in a repetitively-pulsed nanosecond discharge at atmospheric pressure by using an experimentally-validated plasma-combustion kinetic model. The results show that plasma discharge significantly enhances low temperature NH3 ignition. Compared with thermal ignition, the ignition delay time is shortened by 2–5 orders of magnitude due to the kinetic enhancement of excited species and radicals. The radicals (NH2, NH, H and O) produced through electron impact dissociation and quenching of electronically excited N2*, O(1D) and N(2D) promote OH production and further accelerate NH3 oxidation. The results show that there exists a non-monotonic dependence of ignition delay time on the reduced electric field strength. The optimum ignition enhancement is achieved at 250 Td at which the production of electronically excited species and radicals is most efficient. The vibrationally excited species produced at lower electric fields (<100 Td) are less effective in enhancing ignition because they only induce gas heating through the fast vibrational-translational relaxation by NH3 and H2O. At a higher electric field, although the efficient production of NH2, NH, H, O and OH by plasma creates new low temperature reaction pathways in enhancing low temperature NH3 ignition, the ignition is inhibited through NH + NO = N2O + H and chain-termination reaction NH2 + HO2 = NH3 + O2. The ignition delay times at different equivalence ratios show that the ignition enhancement by plasma is more effective at fuel-lean conditions due to the faster generation of N2(B), O(1D) and O from air, leading to accelerated NH3 oxidation via O(1D) + NH3 → NH2 + OH, NH3 + O = NH2 + OH and NH2 + O = NH + OH. The sensitivity analysis shows that the reactions involving O and O(1D) production are more effective on NH3 ignition enhancement than the fuel dissociation by electrons. Moreover, the ignition is also enhanced by NOx formation in plasma via reactions NH2 + NO = NNH + OH and NO + HO2 = NO2 + OH. This work advances the understanding of non-equilibrium excitation and NOx formation by plasma discharge on low temperature NH3 ignition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113140
JournalCombustion and Flame
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • Ammonia
  • Ignition enhancement
  • NO formation
  • Non-equilibrium excitation
  • Plasma assisted ignition


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