Limitations of Ionization Current Sensors and Comparison with Cylinder Pressure Sensors 2000-01-2830
One way of improving electronic engine control is to get an insight into the combustion process, using a direct measurement method: this means the sensor must be put straight into the combustion chamber. The reference for analyzing combustion development is the cylinder pressure sensor. Due to the price of this sensor and the added complexity for cylinder head design and manufacturing, cylinder pressure sensors are not conceivable today for mass production.
An alternative to the cylinder pressure sensor is the ionization sensor. It seems to be very promising for electronic engine control. Several publications have already demonstrated the benefits of ionization currents sensing for misfire detection, knock detection, closed loop ignition control, air-fuel ratio estimation. On the contrary, other publications have shown severe limitations of the ionization sensor. For example, fuel composition or additives can influence the ionization current.
Not all the potentialities of ionization currents are clear today. Several tests on ionization current have been performed in order to get a better understanding of the ionic current phenomenon and evaluate control functions such as misfire or knock detection. For each test, the benefits or the disadvantages of ionization currents are shown in comparison with the cylinder pressure.