Pre-ignition Detection Followed by Immediate Damage Mitigation in a Spark-Ignited Engine

Eshan Singh, Robert W. Dibble

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Pre-ignition remains a significant bottleneck to further downsizing and downspeeding technologies employed for reducing CO2 emissions in modern turbocharged spark-ignited engines. Pre-ignition, which occurs rarely, may lead to high peak pressures that auto-ignite the entire charge before TDC. The resulting high-pressure oscillations are known as super-knock, leading to sudden and permanent hardware damage to the engine. Over the years, numerous researchers have investigated the stochastic phenomenon's source and concluded that there is a role of lubricant additives, deposits, gasoline properties, and hot surfaces in triggering pre-ignition. No single source has been identified; the research continues. Here, we take a different approach; rather than continue the search for the source(s) of super-knock, we explore mitigating super-knock by detecting pre-ignition early enough to take immediate evasive action. Such evasive action is expected to suppress knock intensity, thereby saving the engine from any permanent damage. In this regard, the current work offers ways to detect pre-ignition (using ion sensors) and then mitigate engine damage by using immediate fuel enrichment. We present three related explorations. In exploration #1, we explore if the occurrence of ions products from the exhaust can warn that the next cycle has a high probability of pre-ignition. For this next cycle, the intake fuel injection can be suspended or increased to operate engine fuel-rich. We find strong ion activity on every cycle. However, there is a weak correlation between the ion signal and pre-ignition occurrence. In exploration #2, an in-cylinder ion-current sensor is used to discover pre-ignition event unfolding during the compression stroke. When such a rare event is detected, more fuel is immediately injected, making the end gas far less reactive and avoiding autoignition and knock. These explorations #1 and #2 were conducted with a DC-based ion sensor. These explorations showed exciting and promising findings. However, our DC-based ion sensors are prone to low signal-to-noise ratio SNR, leading to false positives (unacceptably high number of false positives.) In Exploration #3, the signal-to-noise ratio improvement is explored by replacing the DC-based system with a novel AC-based system. We find the bandpass filtering of the ion signal is key to improved SNR.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSAE Technical Paper Series
PublisherSAE International
StatePublished - Apr 6 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-05-06
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this article was funded by Saudi Aramco under the aegis of FuelCom 2. The authors thank Adrian Ichim and Riyad Jambi for their help in setting up the engine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Pollution
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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