Using a laser, as opposed to a conventional (electrical) spark plug, to create a combustion initiating spark is potentially advantageous for several reasons: flexibility in choosing and optimizing the spark location, in particular to move the spark away from solid heat sinks; production of a more robust spark containing more energy; and obviation of electrode erosion problems. These advantages may lead to an extension of the lean limit, an increase in engine thermal efficiency, and the concomitant benefits of reduced pollutant emissions. This paper presents the design of a laser ignition system appropriate for a large bore natural gas engine. Design considerations include: optimization of spark location, design of beam delivery system and optical plug, and mitigation of vibration and thermal effects. Engine test results will be presented in the second paper of this two-paper series.

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