In order to conduct chemical kinetic investigations under piston engine like conditions, a combustion bomb which emulates the pressure rise and decay within a piston engine cylinder has been designed and built. This allows one to investigate chemical kinetics in a realistic pressure‐time burst, without the complication of turbulent mixing. While phenomena like flame speed and heat release depend much more strongly upon fluid mechanics, emissions formation and removal depend strongly upon chemical kinetics. Typical problems of interest include soot oxidation during the pressure decay, coupling of emissions‐related chemical kinetic pathways for various components of reformulated fuel mixtures, investigation of toxics formation, and development of reduced kinetic mechanisms for engine codes which include chemical submodels. Here, the device and the processes by which it works, experimental data and a modified two‐zone thermodynamic model by which one can infer temperatures, volumes, and mass fractions are described. Combined results from experiments and the model indicate that the BDCB produces an excellent imitation of an internal combustion (IC) engine pressure‐time burst. Moreover, this device exhibits better cycle‐to‐cycle reproducibility than research engines, and it allows for unimpeded optical access and rapid sampling. © 1994 American Institute of Physics.