How Does Hydrogen/ Oxygen Work in an internal combustion engine?
Hydrogen. I get asked this question a lot. And yet, this is the most important point to understand if you want to make your car more fuel efficient using this technology. The underlying physics and chemistry/ chemical thermodynamics of this subject can be very complicated. But fortunately the basic concepts are very few and extremely simple.
Misconception of the use of burning hydrogen in you engine
Many people think that we are generating Hydrogen so we can burn it, and that burning this HYDROGEN adds so much power, that we get better fuel mileage. In actual fact, this is not the case. To prove this point, lets this a step further. There are 3 energy conversions at work here:
- Mechanical to electrical (the alternator generates electrical energy)
- Electrical to chemical (the cell makes hydrogen from electro-chemical energy)
- Chemical to mechanical (the Hydrogen burns in the engine to make mechanical energy)
The problem is that there are 3 energy conversions occurring here, and each one loses some energy – in agreement with the third law of chemical thermodynamics. It is a basic fundamental of physics that in any conversion of energy from one form to another, there is going to be some loss.
Engine Efficiency using hydrogen
There is no such thing as 100% efficiency. In some of these conversions there is quite a bit of loss. So if this is all there was to the picture, then the system would actually lose mileage.
I’ve seen this mistaken idea expressed in magazines and on television news coverage to prove that Hydrogen on demand doesn’t work.
What Really Is Going On inside your engine when you burn hydrogen in your engine?
Well, if we aren’t trying to burn the HYDROGEN to get our fuel economy, then how does it work?
In actual fact, HYDROGEN, when added to the air/fuel mixture going into the engine, causes that petroleum fuel to burn more completely and thereby releasing more of the energy of the fuel that would otherwise be wasted. The way this is done is by speeding up the burning process in the cylinder. Scientists say that it considerably increases the flame speed of the petroleum mixture. And it is this fact that sums up the primary way that HYDROGEN improves fuel mileage.
When the flame speed of the fuel mixture is increased, the fuel is burned completely during the power stroke and closer to top dead centre. Less fuel is being burned after the power stroke, which is the exhaust stroke, and which actually works against the turning of the engine.
Further, less unburned fuel is being expelled from the engine as waste and pollutants. A relatively small amount of HYDROGEN will have a dramatic impact on the amount of power a given amount of gasoline will produce. This will then increase fuel mileage dramatically, and cut out a large fraction of the amount of harmful emissions the engine produces.
Hydrogen technology Summary
There is a remarkable simplicity to this technology. If you add HYDROGEN to your engine, you will get an increase in combustion efficiency. That is just science, and it works as certainly as turning on a light switch. In some cases with modern cars and pickup trucks, we need to make some adjustments to the computer so it will allow these savings to take place. But with most commercial large engine systems, such as truck engines, gensets, marine engines, etc, no other handling is needed to get these remarkable fuel savings. To purchase one of these systems, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Wideband Oxygen sensor
Wideband Oxygen Sensor (which may also be called Wide Range Air Fuel (WRAF) sensors) and Air/Fuel (A/F) Sensors, are replacing conventional oxygen sensors in many late model vehicles.
A wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor is essentially a smarter oxygen sensor with some additional internal circuitry that allows it to precisely determine the exact air/fuel ratio of the engine. Like an ordinary oxygen sensor, it reacts to changing oxygen levels in the exhaust. But unlike an ordinary oxygen sensor, the output signal from a wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor does not change abruptly when the air/fuel mixture goes rich or lean. This makes it better suited to today’s low emission engines, and also for tuning performance engines.
Oxygen Sensor Outputs
An ordinary oxygen sensor is really more of a rich/lean indicator because its output voltage jumps up to 0.8 to 0.9 volts when the air/fuel mixture is rich, and drops to 0.3 volts or less when the air/fuel mixture is lean. By comparison, a wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor provides a gradually changing current signal that corresponds to the exact air/fuel ratio.
Another difference is that the sensor’s output voltage is converted by its internal circuitry into a variable current signal that can travel in one of two directions (positive or negative). The current signal gradually increases in the positive direction when the air/fuel mixture becomes leaner. At the “stoichiometric” point when the air/fuel mixture is perfectly balanced (14.7 to 1), which is also referred to as “Lambda”, the current flow from the sensor stops and there is no current flow in either direction. And when the air/fuel ratio becomes progressively richer, the current reverses course and flows in the negative direction.
The PCM sends a control reference voltage (typically 3.3 volts on Toyota A/F sensor applications, 2.6 volts on Bosch and GM wideband sensors) to the sensor through one pair of wires, and monitors the sensor’s output current through a second set of wires. The sensor’s output signal is then processed by the PCM, and can be read on a scan tool as the air/fuel ratio, a fuel trim value and/or a voltage value depending on the application and the display capabilities of the scan tool.
For applications that display a voltage value, anything less than the reference voltage indicate a rich air/fuel ratio while voltages above the reference voltage indicates a lean air/fuel ratio. On some of the early Toyota OBD II applications, the PCM converts the A/F sensor voltage to look like that of an ordinary oxygen sensor (this was done to comply with the display requirements of early OBD II regulations).
How a Wideband O2 Sensor Works
Internally, wideband O2 sensors and A/F sensors appear to be similar to conventional zirconia planar oxygen sensors. There is a flat ceramic strip inside the protective metal nose cone on the end of the sensor. The ceramic strip is actually a dual sensing element that combines a “Nerst effect” oxygen pump and “diffusion gap” with the oxygen sensing element. All three are laminated on the same strip of ceramic.
Exhaust gas enters the sensor through vents or holes in the metal shroud over the tip of the sensor and reacts with the dual sensor element. Oxygen diffuses through the ceramic substrate on the sensor element. The reaction causes the Nerst cell to generate a voltage just like an ordinary oxygen sensor. The oxygen pump compares the change in voltage to the control voltage from the PCM, and balances one against the other to maintain an internal oxygen balance. This alters the current flow through the sensor creating a positive or negative current signal that indicates the exact air/fuel ratio of the engine.
The current flow is not much, usually only about 0.020 amps or less. The PCM then converts the sensor’s analog current output into a voltage signal that can then be read on your scan tool.
What’s the difference between a wideband O2 sensor and an A/F sensor? Wideband 2 sensors typically have 5 wires while most A/F sensors have 4 wires.
O2 SENSOR HEATER CIRCUIT
Like ordinary oxygen sensors, wideband O2 sensors and A/F sensors also have an internal heater circuit to help them reach operating temperature quickly. To work properly, wideband and A/F sensors require a higher operating temperature: 1292 to 1472 degrees F versus about 600 degrees F for ordinary oxygen sensors. Consequently, if the heater circuit fails, the sensor may not put out a reliable signal.
The heater circuit is energized through a relay, which turns on when the engine is cranked and the fuel injection relay is energized. The heater circuit can pull up to 8 amps on some engines, and is usually pulse width modulated (PWM) to vary the amount of heat depending on engine temperature (this also prevents the heater from getting too hot and burning out). When the engine is cold, the duty ratio (on time) of the heater circuit will be higher than when the engine is hot. A failure in the heater circuit will usually turn on the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) and set a P0125 diagnostic trouble code (DTC).
Oxygen Sensor Problems
Like ordinary oxygen sensors, wideband O2 sensors and A/F sensors are vulnerable to contamination and aging. They can become sluggish and slow to respond to changes in the air/fuel mixture as contaminants build up on the sensor element. Contaminants include phosphorus from motor oil (from worn valve guides and rings), silicates from antifreeze (leaky head gasket or intake gaskets, or cracks in the combustion chamber that leak coolant), and even sulfur and other additives in gasoline. The sensors are designed to last upwards of 200,000 km but may not go the distance if the engine burns oil, develops an internal coolant leak or gets some bad gas.
Wideband 2 sensors and A/F sensors can also be fooled by air leaks in the exhaust system (leaky exhaust manifold gaskets) or compression problems (such as leaky or burned exhaust valves) that allow unburned air to pass through the engine and enter the exhaust.
Wideband A/F Sensor Diagnostics
As a rule, the OBD II system will detect any problems that affect the operation of the oxygen or A/F sensors and set a DTC that corresponds to the type of fault. Generic OBD II codes that indicate a fault in the O2 or A/F sensor heater circuit include: P0036, P0037, P0038, P0042, P0043, P0044, P0050, P0051, P0052, P0056, P0057, P0058, P0062, P0063, P0064.
Codes that indicate a possible fault in the oxygen sensor itself include any code from P0130 to P0167. There may be additional OEM “enhanced “P1” codes that will vary depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle.
The symptoms of a bad wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor are essentially the same as those of a conventional oxygen sensor: Engine running rich, poor fuel economy and/or an emission failure due to higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in the exhaust.
Possible causes in addition to the sensor itself having failed
Possible causes in addition to the sensor itself having failed include bad wiring connections or a faulty heater circuit relay (if there are heater codes), or a wiring fault, leaky exhaust manifold gasket or leaky exhaust valves if there are sensor codes indicating a lean fuel condition.
What to Check: How the sensor responds to changes in the air/fuel ratio. Plug a scan tool into the vehicle diagnostic connector, start the engine and create a momentary change in the air/fuel radio by snapping the throttle or feeding propane into the throttle body. Look for a response from the wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor. No change in the indicated air/fuel ratio, Lambda value, sensor voltage value or short term fuel trim number would indicate a bad sensor that needs to be replaced.
Other scan tool PIDS to look at include the OBD II oxygen heater monitor status, OBD II oxygen sensor monitor status, loop status and coolant temperature. The status of the monitors will tell you if the OBD II system has run its self-checks on the sensor. The loop status will tell you if the PCM is using the wideband O2 or A/F sensor’s input to control the air/fuel ratio. If the system remains in open loop once the engine is warm, check for a possible faulty coolant sensor.
Another way to check the output of a wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor is to connect a digital voltmeter or graphing multimeter in series with the sensor’s voltage reference line (refer to a wiring diagram for the proper connection). Connect the black negative lead to the sensor end of the reference wire, and the red positive lead to the PCM end of the wire. The meter should then show an increase in voltage (above the reference voltage) if the air/fuel mixture is lean, or a drop in voltage (below the reference voltage) if the mixture is rich.
Wideband O2 sensor output
The output of a wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor can also be observed on a digital storage oscilloscope by connecting one lead to the reference circuit and the other to the sensor control circuit. This will generate a waveform that changes with the air/fuel ratio. The scope can also be connected to the sensor’s heater wires to check the duty cycle of the heater circuit. You should see a square wave pattern and a decrease in the duty cycle as the engine warms up.
Wideband Oxygen Sensor Tech Tips
* On Honda 5-wire “Lean Air Fuel” (LAF) sensors, the 8-pin connector pin for the sensor contains a special “calibration” resistor. The value of the resistor can be determined by measuring between terminals 3 and 4 with an ohmmeter, and will be 2.4K ohms, 10K ohms or 15k ohms depending on the application. If the connector is damaged and must be replaced, the replacement must have the same value as the original. The reference voltage from the PCM to the sensor on these engines is 2.7 volts.
* Saturn also uses a special trim resistor in their wideband O2 sensor connector (pins 1 & 6). The resistor is typically 30 to 300 ohms. The PCM supplied reference voltage is 2.4 to 2.6 volts.
* If a O2 sensor, wideband O2 sensor or A/F sensor has failed because of coolant contamination, do not replace the sensor until the leaky head gasket or cylinder head has been replaced. The new sensor will soon fail unless the coolant leak is fixed.
* Some early Toyota applications with A/F sensors provide a “simulated” O2 sensor voltage to be displayed on a scan tool. The actual value was divided by 5 to comply with early OBD II regulations. Those regulations have since been revised, but be aware if you get a “funky” display on your scan tool
Mass Airflow Sensors
Mass airflow sensors MAF, which are used on a variety of multiport fuel injection systems, come in two basic varieties: hot wire and hot film. Though slightly different in design, both types of sensors measure the volume and density of the air entering the engine so the computer can calculate how much fuel is needed to maintain the correct fuel mixture.
Mass airflow sensors have no moving parts. Unlike a vane airflow meter that uses a spring-loaded flap, mass airflow sensors use electrical current to measure airflow. The sensing element, which is either a platinum wire (hot wire) or nickel foil grid (hot film), is heated electrically to keep it a certain number of degrees hotter than the incoming air. In the case of hot film MAFs, the grid is heated to 75 degrees C. above incoming ambient air temperature. With the hot wire sensors, the wire is heated to 100 degrees C. above ambient temperature. As air flows past the sensing element, it cools the element and increases the current needed to keep the element hot. Because the cooling effect varies directly with the temperature, density and humidity of the incoming air, the amount of current needed to keep the element hot is directly proportional to the air “mass” entering the engine.
MASS AIRFLOW SENSOR OUTPUT
Mass airflow sensors MAF sensor output to the computer depends on the type of sensor used. The hot wire version, which Bosch introduced back in ’79 on its LH-Jetronic fuel injection systems and is used on a number of multiport systems including GM’s 5.0L and 5.7L Tuned Port Injection (TPI) engines, generates an analog voltage signal that varies from 0 to 5 volts. Output at idle is usually 0.4 to 0.8 volts increasing up to 4.5 to 5.0 volts at wide open throttle.
The hot film MAFs, which AC Delco introduced in ’84 on the Buick turbo V6 and have since used on the 2.8, 3.0 and 3.8L V6 engines, produce a square wave variable frequency output. The frequency range varies from 30 to 150 Hz, with 30 Hz being average for idle and 150 Hz for wide open throttle.
fig 1- Digital MAF waveform
Another difference between the hot wire and hot film sensors is that the Bosch hot wire units have a self-cleaning cycle where the platinum wire is heated to 1000 degrees C. for one second after the engine is shut down. The momentary surge in current is controlled by the onboard computer through a relay to burn off contaminants that might otherwise foul the wire and interfere with the sensor’s ability to read incoming air mass accurately.
Fig 2.- engine performance monitor
MASS AIRFLOW SENSOR DIAGNOSTIC FAULT CODES
An engine with a bad MAF sensor may start and stall or be hard to start, it may hesitate under load, idle rough or run excessively rich or lean. The engine may also hiccup when the throttle suddenly changes position.
Often, a dirty or faulty MAF sensor will cause the engine to set a LEAN code and turn on the Check Engine Light. If the MAF sensor wire becomes dirty or is contaminated with oil (from an aftermarket reusable air filter), it will be slow to react to changes in airflow. This may cause the MAF sensor to under-report airflow, causing the engine to run lean.
On OBD II vehicles, the input from the MAF sensor is combined with those form the throttle position sensor, MAP sensor and engine speed to calculate engine load. If your scan tool can display calculated engine load, look at the value to see if the load is low at idle, and higher when the engine is running under load. No change in the reading or a reading that makes no sense could indicate a problem with any of these sensors.
If you suspect a MAF sensor problem, scan for any fault codes. Trouble codes that may indicate a problem with the mass airflow sensor include:
P0100….Mass or Volume Air Flow Circuit
P0101….Mass or Volume Air Flow Circuit Range/Performance Problem
P0102….Mass or Volume Air Flow Circuit Low Input
P0103….Mass or Volume Air Flow Circuit High Input
P0104….Mass or Volume Air Flow Circuit Intermittent
P0171….System too Lean (Bank 1)
P0172….System too Rich (Bank 1)
P0173….Fuel Trim Malfunction (Bank 2)
P0174….System too Lean (Bank 2)
P0175….System too Rich (Bank 2)
On older Pre-OBD II vehicles, you can use a scan tool or manual flash code procedure to read the codes:
GM Pre-OBD II: Code 33 (too high frequency) and Code 34 (too low frequency) on engines with multiport fuel injection only, and Code 36 on 5.0L and 5.7L engines that use the Bosch hot wire MAF if the burn-off cycle after shut-down fails to occur.
Ford Pre-OBD II: Code 26 (MAF out of range), Code 56 (MAF output too high), Code 66 (MAF output too low), and Code 76 (no MAF change during “goose” test).
Of course, don’t overlook the basics, too such as engine compression, vacuum, fuel pressure, ignition, etc., since problems in any of these areas can produce similar driveability symptoms.
MASS AIRFLOW SENSOR DIAGNOSIS
Unlike vane airflow meters with their movable flaps, MAFs have no moving parts so the only way to know if the unit is functioning properly is to look at the sensor’s output, or its effect on injector timing.
With the Bosch hot wire sensors, sensor voltage output can be read directly with a digital voltmeter by probing the appropriate terminals. If the voltage readings are out of range, or if the sensor’s voltage output fails to increase when the throttle is opened with the engine running, the sensor is defective and needs to be replaced. A dirty wire (which may be the result of a defective self-cleaning circuit or external contamination of the wire) can make the sensor slow to respond to changes in airflow. A broken or burned out wire would obviously prevent the sensor from working at all. Power to the MAF sensor is provided through a pair of relays (one for power, one for the burn-off cleaning cycle), so check the relays first if the MAF sensor appears to be dead or sluggish.
Vibration-related sensor problems
On GM MAF sensors, there are a couple of quick checks you can do for vibration-related sensor problems. Attach an analog voltmeter to the appropriate MAF sensor output terminal. With the engine idling, the sensor should be putting out a steady 2.5 volts. Tap lightly on the sensor and note the meter reading. A good sensor should show no change. If the analog needle jumps and/or the engine momentarily misfires, the sensor is bad and needs to be replaced. You can also check for heat-related problems by heating the sensor with a hair dryer and repeating the test.
This same test can also be done using a meter that reads frequency. The older AC Delco MAF sensors (like a 2.8L V6) should show a steady reading of 30 to 50 Hz at idle and 70 to 75 Hz at 3,500 rpm. The later model units (like those on a 3800 V6) should read about 2.9 kHz at idle and 5.0 kHz at 3,500 rpm. If tapping on the MAF sensor produces a sudden change in the frequency signal, it’s time for a new sensor.
On the GM hot film MAFs, you can also tap into the onboard computer data stream with a scan tool to read the MAF sensor output in “grams per second” (GPS). The reading might go from 3 to 5 GPS at idle up to 100 to 240 GPS at wide open throttle and 5000 RPM.
The scantool GPS reading at idle will vary by engine displacement. The larger the engine, the higher the GPS reading at idle. The GPS idle reading will roughly correspond to engine displacement in liters. A 3.0L V6 engine, for example, will generate a GPS reading of about 3.0 grams per second at idle. A larger 5.0L V8 would read around 5 grams per second, and a smaller 2.0L four cylinder would read around 2 grams per second at idle.
published MAF sensor GPS reading specification
Some vehicle manufacturers publish MAF sensor GPS reading specifications for specific engine speeds. The engine is held steady at the specified RPM to compare the scantool GPS reading to the spec. If the reading is off by more than 10 percent, the MAF sensor is not reading airflow correctly. The cause could be a dirty sensor that needs to be cleaned.
Fig 3 – Bosch Hot wire MAF waveform
Like throttle position sensors, there should be smooth linear transition in sensor output throughout the rpm range. If the readings jump all over the place, the computer won’t be able to deliver the right air/fuel mixture and driveability and emissions will suffer. So you should also check the sensor’s output at various speeds to see that it’s output changes appropriately. This can be done by graphing its frequency output every 500 rpm, or by observing the sensor’s waveform on a scope. The waveform should be square and show a gradual increase in frequency as engine speed and load increase. Any skips or sudden jumps or excessive noise in the pattern would tell you the sensor needs to be replaced.
MAF sensor output
Another way to check MAF sensor output is to see what effect it is has on injector timing. Using an oscilloscope or multimeter that reads milliseconds, connect the test probe to any injector ground terminal (one injector terminal is the supply voltage and the other is the ground circuit to the computer that controls timing). Then look at the duration of the injector pulses at idle (or while cranking the engine if the engine won’t start). Injector timing varies depending on the application, but if the mass airflow sensor is not producing a signal, injector timing will be about four times longer than normal (possibly making the fuel mixture too rich to start). You can also use millisecond readings to confirm fuel enrichment when the throttle is opened during acceleration, fuel leaning during light load cruising and injector shut-down during deceleration. Under light load cruise, for example, you should see about 2.5 to 2.8 Ms duration.
CLEANING FORD MAF SENSORS
For some reason, Ford vehicles have had a history of MAF sensor problems caused by contamination. In some cases, dirt gets past a leaky air filter and fouls the sensor wire. In other cases, carbon varnish builds up on the sensor from fuel vapors backing up through the intake manifold. Either way, contamination makes the MAF sens3B”>