Engine Improvement with a Negative Ion Generator?

article #1267, updated 1 day ago

I’ve never been a profound and excellent engine guy, and with computers controlling them I have become even less and less of one over time. But theoretically, one should be able to improve anything at least a bit, and I may have stumbled on a way.

A negative ion generator, is a thing used commonly to improve air quality. They “ionize” molecules and atoms in air, giving them negative electrical charges. This observably coalesces dust particles which fall, and also destroys odors. One can find more health-related reports about them too. Reportedly, right after a thunderstorm, most of the “invigoration” one encounters in the air, is negative ionization.

There used to be “negative ionizer” widgets which were little bricks that plugged in and hung onto wall power sockets; these did help, but the dust tended to coalesce and adhere around a few inches radius of the device, on the wall et cetera, which is why we don’t see those much anymore! But they are being built into air conditioners quite a lot now, even the window air conditioner we bought a year or two ago has one inside it. Little ones with fans are now quite available from a few different companies.

And I do enjoy testing the walls of my current box, so, thought I, I wonder what would happen if we charged the air going into our friendly household truck engine. I have a 1998 Tahoe, 5.7L EFI V8, which underwent some mods before she asked to come into our life (her name is Bertha, she is a big girl with a very low voice)…and she has a certain amount of airspace available in her engine compartment, so I thought, why not. I remember just enough physical chemistry (which I mostly failed) to be dangerous, and the idea of adding electrons to air molecules and atoms to make them more reactive, sounds like a way to get a very nicely excited sort of energy into her heart. After all, it’s not how much energy you have, it’s the preparation of that energy into usable form. We have enormous amounts of unused chemical energy in every engine cycle; if we can bleed off a little engine power electrically to get a noticeably helpful net result, that’s a definite gain.

So I ordered one of these:

after a bit of research, from Alanchi on AliExpress. The pic is for the 110VAC version, it comes in 12VDC and 220VAC too; I ordered the 12VDC of course, to wire straight into existing electrical. It is advertised as a 30 million particle per cm3 negative ionizer, which is literally twice as powerful as any of the others I could find, except one which is 220VAC only. That one is at 100 million particles per cm3…but I’m not going to try to engineer 220VAC under Bertha’s hood ☺ Also unlike what I have seen in the past, this class of ionizer throws its output off little carbon brushes, rather than rows of thin and sharp metal needles. I have seen the metal needles degrade over time, due to corrosion and possibly more interesting behaviors (I saw what looked like a slow-moving, brightly glowing spark, rising off a needle, at least twice); the carbon brushes strike me as a very good idea.

If you are in the U.S., you’ll spend a lot of money on shipping from AliExpress unless you are willing to wait a long time; I waited a long time ☺ and I don’t regret it, it gave me time to think about setting this up in as durable a fashion as possible, which we really do want in an engine compartment. Electrical fires are no fun, we have to be careful. One nice thing, this 30 M/cm3 ionizer element is only using 0.5 watts of power, just a tiny sip.

Do note that what we want is explicitly not an “ozone generator”. Ozone is a peculiar and less stable molecular form of oxygen, which is both poisonous and corrosive. We do not want any noticeable amount of this, in regular contact with anything of ours. It is used sometimes as a cleansing agent, to kill invasive bugs and other unpleasantries, but it is not what we are after here. Most if not all electronics produce very tiny amounts of ozone, thunderstorms produce more; the devices we want for this purpose explicitly produce only infinitesimal amounts, and they are explicitly rated for this as well, because years ago this was not done so carefully, there was confusion.

It is also true that I am at least a tad concerned with possible corrosion in this build. Ionization means reactivity: various components of air are being made more likely to do chemical reactions with things they encounter, than they would otherwise. So be warned, if you try this you taking risk just as I am; I have no idea what this is doing to various sensors and other bits in the air intake setup! And as of this writing, 2019-02-18, it’s been in place just 3-4 weeks. I’ll be updating as I learn things and encounter things happening. One idea which did come up recently, was checking the spark plugs, this can be one way to find badness in the cylinders; I’ll have them changed out soon so I can get multiple experienced opinions.

And back to work. I set up the electricals as well as I know how, with crimp-on terminals for every wire, because I intend to run with it in the long term, and Kansas sometimes (and never always) gets very cold winters, very hot summers, wet springs, etc. Power comes from the fuse box, using something called a “fuse tap”,

which I learned about through web-searching; I found the AutoZone three blocks from our home had the ones for Bertha in stock. You take out an existing fuse, plug the fuse tap in, and then plug the old fuse and a second new fuse into the fuse tap’s own sockets. The fuse tap has a wire end to crimp onto, and that runs to the widget needing the power.

We could wire straight to the battery, but that would mean opening the hood to switch it on and off every time. Since we want this widgetry to always have power with the engine, we use the fuse tap, and choose the fuse socket accordingly. The one marked “IGN” (“ignition” I think) is working well for me, though I saw one bit of web-advice against it for unclear reasons, probably related to applications pulling a lot more power than this one. On Bertha, IGN is also the only socket of the correct size in the fuse box under the hood: 10A, which is maximum for all of the fuse taps I found for this vehicle. My friendly neighborhood AutoZone guy also was fast and accurate in finding crimp-on terminals that fit on the switch I wired in (further down), and other items.

So I ran a new wire from the fuse tap, all the way around the back of the engine compartment, threading through items which don’t get hot to hold it in place, to a little switch with a light in it, so I could know for certain when the widget is powered, and so I could shut it off if something happened in certain categories ☺ I followed the simple wording on the switch (+12VDC here, accessory wire there, ground there), and grounded both the device and the switch directly to the battery. Then I drilled four small holes, one for each of the carbon brushes, in the casing for the air filter. This is emphatically pre-filter, not post-filter, because I don’t care how strong those brushes are, I don’t want bits of them ever going into Bertha’s engine! Here’s the result:

Normally everything sits in that little cavity just under the switch, I pulled it all out for the pic. You’ll notice the four wires going into the air filter casing. I used a very nice epoxy from JB Weld advertised to bond any plastic; it works very well, highly recommendable.

I will end up regretting using epoxy if/when I eventually have to replace the ionizer unit, but that’s fine, that’s what cordless electric drills are for ☺ Also I still don’t know what I will use instead of the epoxy. It seems important to hold those wire ends so they don’t get sucked onto the air filter surface, or flap around a lot; they’re sticking through only about an inch.

I can imagine a little metal screw-in stud with a hole in the middle for the wire, but I don’t know what it’s commonly called, or if anyone is actually making them right now ☺ They probably are, these days. If it becomes desireable, I’ll probably send up a RFQ (request for quote) to MFG or AliExpress or something. Wording is the problem then, and the fact that although I might have seen one or two of these in the dim sands of memory, I don’t have precise specs, and my drawing skills aren’t great. I once taught myself rudiments of the DOS version of AutoCAD though, maybe I could revisit that kind of graphics; someone must have an open-source CAD by now, right…?

The device has been in place for just 3-4 weeks at this writing, and it has been very cold mostly, ranging from -5 to +35 F (-21 to +2 C) or so. Noticeable results so far:

  • Cold running. In the extremer cold, Bertha has sounded a bit strained until warm, like many other engines I’ve heard. Not anymore. Even stone cold, at minus five, the gas pedal seems to have about as much juice as warm. She probably burns a good bit more gas doing it, but is happy to help!
  • Starting. Bertha has never had real trouble starting once I gave her a really good (and pricey) battery and new starter, just normal behavior. But now it’s not normal. Hot or four-hours-ago-warm, she takes off, probably turning over once. Cold, one turns the ignition on for a few seconds to run the fuel pump and charge that air…and she turns over just a bit and righto she goes.
  • Hot-running idle has an interesting sound change (she does have glasspacks…), very very regular, quite a lot less in volume, clearly doing more motion with less.

I haven’t noticed a whole lot of change in general driving yet, beyond the very cold and overall consistency. Which is why I’ve ordered three more of those negative ion generators ☺ Not going to put them all in Bertha I don’t think, I’m looking for others to join in the fun; we’ll see. I have been tentatively thinking about a second and third vacuum-controlled stage…with white, yellow, and orange LEDs in a row on the dash…maybe…☺

It will be interesting to see how summer plays! Do drop me a line if you have questions, are interested, or try it!!!