More efficient and cleaner car engines in sight

Imagine a car engine that saves you gas money and protects the environment. That may soon be a reality. Researchers at Karstad University in Sweden, working with the Swedish company Mecel, have developed a new method to make internal combustion engines more efficient and environmentally friendly.


To be able to tune internal combustion engines optimally, information is needed from the combustion process in the engine’s cylinders. This isn’t easy, because it’s hard to monitor what’s going on in the sooty and hot cylinders. The Karlstad scientists and Mecel have found algorithms for a so-called ion current analyzer, which uses statistical signal processing to obtain better combustion information from ion currents. The information is used to control and monitor the engine.

The research project could be of crucial importance to the control of the next generation of internal combustion engines. The researchers recently applied for a patent for the invention. The aim is to get major auto-makers to sign on for its future development.

“If we can improve the quality of the information about the combustion process, an ion current analyzer might be standard in every car sold in the future,” says Jakob Ängeby, visiting researcher at the Section for Electrotechnology at Karlstad University and manager of Advanced Engineering at Mecel.

When the air and fuel in the engine’s cylinder is burned, free electrons and charged ions are formed in the combustion gases. By sensing the concentration of ions in the gas, information on the combustion process can be retrieved. It’s not new knowledge that ion-sense can be used for this purpose. The technology is already in use today and has been incorporated in a series of products for the automotive industry by Mecel.

What the researchers at Karlstad University are adding is the application of statistical signal processing to acquire information of better quality than previously achieved from ion current measurements. For example, the information can be used to monitor and control the air to fuel ratio and pressure max or to develop the

engine’s combustion stability to get the car to run as smoothly as possible.

“With better information about the combustion, you can control engines better and make them more efficient, which in turn leads to better gas mileage,” says Jakob Ängeby.

Mecel has been a leader in research and development of ion–sense for more than 20 years. The Åmål-based company works on the absolute cutting-edge of advanced electronics and software for controlling and extracting information from internal combustion engines. The research project is partially funded by the Foundation of technology transfer (Teknikbrostiftelsen). Besides Jakob Ängeby, Magnus Mossberg and Andreas Jacobsson are involved in the project, both from the Section for Electrotechnology at Karlstad University.

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