A transient spray mixing model forming the basis of heterogeneous combustion in direct injection diesel engines is described.Experimental results of transient fuel sprays in a high pressure, high temperature chamber form the basis of spray growth equations. Use of similarity of concentration profile across the spray in conjunction with spray geometry and mass conservation yields a complete description of spatial and temporal fuel-air distribution. Fuel preparation and air entrainment rates are calculated from the history of fuel-air distribution.Progressive evolution of combustion zones is determined by the fuel-air mixing process. Energy conservation and chemical kinetics calculations in each zone yield cylinder pressure and local nitric oxide concentration.The role of fuel-air mixing in diesel combustion is discussed. The model results are compared with experimental data.