During a combustion cycle, a first stoichiometrically lean fuel charge is injected well prior to top dead center, preferably during the intake stroke. This first fuel charge is substantially mixed with the combustion chamber air during subsequent motion of the piston towards top dead center. A subsequent fuel charge is then injected prior to top dead center to create a stratified, locally richer mixture (but still leaner than stoichiometric) within the combustion chamber. The locally rich region within the combustion chamber has sufficient fuel density to autoignite, and its self-ignition serves to activate ignition for the lean mixture existing within the remainder of the combustion chamber. Because the mixture within the combustion chamber is overall premixed and relatively lean, NO.sub.x and soot production are significantly diminished.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH
This invention was made with United States government support awarded by the following agencies: Department of Energy, Grant No. DOE DE-FG04-2000AL66549. The United States has certain rights in this invention.