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Ignition Control by Ionization Current Interpretation

Spark advance setting in spark-ignited engines is used to place the in-cylinder pressure curve relative to the top dead center. It is demonstrated that ionization current interpretation is feasible to use for spark advance control to optimize engine performance. A feedback scheme, not a calibration scheme, based on ionization current is proposed. It is thus related to pressure sensor feedback schemes, that have reported good results, but have not yet proven cost effective due to the cost of the pressure sensor. The method proposed here is very cost effective since it uses exactly the same hardware and instrumentation (already used in production cars) that is used to utilize the spark plug as a sensor to detect misfire and as a sensor for knock control. The only addition for ignition control is further signal interpretation in the electronic engine control unit.

A key idea in our method is to use parameterized functions to describe the ionization current. These parameterized functions are used to separate out the different phases of the ionization current. Special emphasis is made to get a correct description of the pressure development. The results are validated on a SAAB 2.3 l production engine by direct comparison with an in-cylinder pressure sensor (used only for validation, not for control), but also by using a physical model relating the ionization current to the pressure.

Lars Eriksson, Lars Nielsen and Jan Nytomt


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Last updated: 2021-11-10