Charging engine intake air (negative ionization)

About two years into the project thus far. (Cannot upload pix or link here yet, am very new, but many thanks @obi_waynne , for the invite to post this.) Negative ion generators are lately quite common in air conditioners, air cleaners, and other devices; these charge millions of air molecules negatively, and the results are helpful in a few ways. The most proven ways are "clumping" of dust particles for filtration efficiency and destruction of many aromatic esters (a.k.a. unpleasant smells), but many people have been more or less unscientifically claiming health benefits, due to the "invigoration" one feels of negatively charged air after a thunderstorm. Anyway, I used these things to destinkify an unpleasant basement for a few years, and after my dad carefully explained why I probably would not want to try to heat the fuel going into my '98 Tahoe's engine (heating the gas tank to radiator temperature did not appeal, a previous project of this kind was most interesting), a thought emerged: what would happen if I sent ionized air into the engine?

Well, I put on just one four-wire-output 12VDC-input Alanchi negative ionizer unit (searchable on initially, pre-filter, in the middle of a very cold winter, and was amazed: much better running overall (this is the 5.7L V8), and better starting too. So I added two more. Sweet Lori and I did a driving test, and 2.8 MPG improvement was observed. And I kept going. The Alanchis are just $4-10 each, which is quite helpful.

Fast forward to now. I have twelve of the Alanchis with two reportedly much more powerful Electro Depot units (much harder to find) connected to a single 8" carbon-fiber brush I had made. Appearances are that I'm gaining gas mileage, horsepower, running quite a bit cooler, and am able to run E-85 gasoline (50-85% ethanol) with no loss in power. I'm at the point of studying how to measure output and results in hard numbers, and also to neaten up the wiring a lot. One friend has two Alanchis on his Dodge V6 pickup, and my sweet Lori has recently encouraged that two or three be added to her 2007 Ford Focus :)


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Below is a view inside the air filter compartment. The ends hanging are from some of the twelve Alanchi air charger units in the row above. The two bigger ones are wired onto the 8" carbon-fiber brush at the back.
And the back of the air filter compartment, showing the outside of the two screws holding the brush on, which is how those two charger units are wired in. Black silicone has been spread on exposed metal, to prevent accidents :) Nothing serious, but indeed if your hand hits one of those without it, you'll know it!
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What an interesting project, it's nice to see a totally fresh approach and something new being tried out, well done fella!
Many thanks :) And I will.

I just got my Lever Nuts:
in, and it looks like they will clamp very nicely onto the very small 12VDC wires (22 gauge?) of the air charger (negative ionizer) units. I'll start setting those up soon, probably tonight after it cools down some, unless there is a priority happening of some sort.

@wizzer, if you like, tell us a bit of where your knowledge is strongest? Engine mechanics, chemistry, physics? What did you do least badly in that general zone of either schooling or informal work, after twelve years of age or so? :) Probably we can help explain best if we know. I'll be interested in theory discussion too, as I have not until very recently had many people with which to discuss!

I failed chemistry quite reliably over and over again, learning just enough to keep me out of trouble, and just enough to be useful here and there. Slightly better in physics and electronics, but not much. Learned a lot of the vocabulary, but observed that talent was missing! And I never had a whole lot of talent in general auto mechanics, but picked up basics and a bit of adventure over the years. My real strength is probably a willingness to design extremely slowly while checking out the bits before building anything. This probably would tend to drive a lot of potential partners up the wall...but it does keep things interesting, and it permits me to keep the agreement my sweet wife Lori made with me when I first told her about my first project: "Just don't blow up the car." Really quite a nice arrangement :)
I did A level physics and work installing AV systems, so know my way around Audi and sound waves. I also never really got on with Chemistry!
:) My favorite memories of Chemistry (long after the fact) was qualitative analysis. By step #3 of 10, it never looked anything like it was supposed to look!

So, physics. Twelve of the widgets are the 12 volts DC version of these:,searchweb201602_,searchweb201603_

The 12VDC goes into the two thin wires on the right. The electronics in the box produce a static high voltage charge potential, 4000 VDC at least, at the ends of the four larger wires on the left. At the end of each of those four wires is a small brush made of carbon-fiber:
Seeking theory, I had not been able to find much literature on my own. But I posted a bit on some physics and electronics sites fairly recently, and some folks who actually know these things explained that the widget is setting up something called a "corona" at each of those brushes, and apparently wherever there is a narrow-radius curve (a.k.a., a sharp edge) on a conductive object through which a negative corona is occurring, electrons will tend to leap off onto nearby air molecules, thus charging them negatively. The whole event is apparently called a "corona discharge". A brush has lots of "sharp" edges, especially when air is blown across it, and an engine air intake is a very nice place to find moving air :)

So then we get to what is happening to an engine after that, and that has to be a lot more vague, because I don't have anything close to the test equipment to do the real. I'd love to verify, just for starters, accurate numbers of the output of each widget. But anyway, here is some current theory:
  • When one burns anything, there is a temperature at which the reaction will occur. A lot of that temperature, I remember being told by a teacher once, is loosening up the molecules enough so that they are sufficiently unstable.
  • Anything ionized, charged electrically, is more reactive, less stable. It "wants" to react and interact more.
  • Any combustion involving one or more ionized components, should therefore spend less energy on pre-reaction heating, produce more gas expansion and less waste heat, and occur at lower temperature.
  • One friend, upon seeing the widgetry, immediately suggested that the primary effect might be better dispersion of the mixture in the cylinders, because of repulsion of particles (likes repel, unlikes attract...). I had never thought of that, but cannot omit it from consideration.
I do imagine, at the moment, that the engine computers are probably helping in some way. At least one apparently wiser tongue than I, has suggested that some oxygen sensors are probably reading the ionized air as more oxygenated, and possibly also, reading exhaust gases as producing more thorough combustion. I do have an OBD2 reader, a relatively simple one, and one of these days I'm going to have to turn the widgetry off and on and see if it's clear that the computer is noticing. If it is, I'll begin to think about a laptop-driven ODB2 rig. It has appeared that the perceptible effects of the widgetry is greatest starting about one week after any new install, and then dips a bit after a month or two, and I have thought this likely to be the computer reacting to it all. But this is obviously extremely subjective, and therefore, frankly, extremely suspect. Also, and equally significantly, I haven't seen any computer interface rig available which is clearly ready to give both (a) protection from doing harm and (b) the flexibility to change this category (timing, mixture) for the better.
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Well! Another year. I had an inspiration: charge the filter. The filter on my Tahoe makes this easy, the filter material is held in place with a metal mesh. So I rigged up one new air charger component with a clip to the mesh. Engine behavior was immediate and startling; it was as if that one was doing more than all the others combined. Am fairly certain, also, that overcarbonization damage to plugs is an early result of too much air ionization (given other engine adjustments constant!). So after losing two different plugs, I am now running with just the one clip, and it all appears to be running very well indeed.

So the next step is to sense off-idle, cruise, and acceleration, and set up multiple stages accordingly :)


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I am intrigued with this idea. Back in the 1970s I had a small ioniser on my office desk. It's function was to clean up the polluted air which came in from a busy road. More recently, my wife has bought a Dyson air purifier which I imagine is a similar thing.?

Sending negatively charged (unstable) air particles into the engine is a genius idea ..but is it something that the motor racing fraternity are already doing?

Hi, Ray! Indeed, those 70s ionizers I remember from the Popular Mechanics magazines my grandfather gave us :) I didn't have the motivation+funds to buy one until the late 90s, learned a bit. In the last 15 years or so there has been quite the explosion of negative ionizer units, often embedded in small and large A/C units and other things, if you google it you may be surprised. There seem to be some fads happening, mostly in southeast Asia.

I have been wondering quite a bit, whether there are racing crews using this. Haven't found any yet, and I have been chased off a few forums by folks who refused to imagine there could be anything worthwhile which they hadn't seen done :)

The most significant learning this year, is the operative limits and the need for regulation. So far it appears that if the apparatus is active at less than about 20F (-6.67C), at least on this engine!, it's likely to foul one or more plugs. And one does need to regulate the input voltage; if one delivers too much at any temperature, it will also foul the plugs.

The only advertised-as-such small waterproof thermostat switch anywhere near that temperature cutoff, that I could find, cuts off at 14F and turns back on at 5F:

which is close, and I'm using it, but not really the right thing. Most recently I found XH-3001:

apparently an extremely standard part in some circles. Half the price of the Senasys, nicely adjustable, and a display to boot. So I bought one and sealed all of its holes and seams with plastic-to-plastic glue from a local auto parts stores, am hoping that will be good enough. I'm working on that now, being careful with the wiring.

During last winter's experimentation, there were a few moments with "much too much" ionized air going in, which produced quite the surprising "howl" from the engine :) I am seeking a measured amount of that, as stage 2, given that this is my daily driver :)

But I am definitely enjoying the smooth running of this truck running e-85 (85% ethanol) gasohol, it was not designed for that! Saves quite a lot of funds right now.
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Great to hear from you, Jonathan. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have people on forums not prepared to be open minded. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason!

I for one AM listening. As to it's potential use in racing; if there is one thing preventing racing teams from using it, I imagine it must be a Patent. I found this:

However, if I were in Lewis Hamilton's shoes right now - with everything going pear shaped - I would be listening to you!

As an aside, my late Father was a R&D engineer with a keen interest in motors. He would have been all over this!!!

That aside, I am rebuilding a 1949 MG TC with it's original 1300 cc XPAG engine. To improve performance I have upgraded the engine with a fast road cam and supercharger and much else besides. I have also designed and installed an exhaust drawn crankcase pressure evacuation system (similar to that used in light aircraft) and a purpose built extractor manifold. Any extra improvements would be a help although, to be fair, the engine has yet to be fired up.!

I don't wish to get into vintage racing; I just want my 'restomod' MG to be as good was I can get it which means I would be keen to add an ioniser ....but I am unsure what voltage I should use.? You say as little as 2 VDC might work best... but I really need your advice with this.

I am also unsure about the issues relating to temperature. As an open top car, it is unlikely to get taken out in sub freezing temperatures. Having said that, I don't really want to limit or restrict my options.

I may be retired... but I am still open to ideas!

Looking very much forward to hearing more from you again.

Kind regards,

It was kind of fun, Ray, seeing those comments. But I'm very grateful for you and Waynne and others with uncrisped brains :)

And indeed, I remember seeing that patent -- which expired in 2013 :) It's equally interesting to read the specifics of what is being patented: it's an "apparatus" with several explicit specifics, including an inlet for air, an inlet for fuel, and more. Which is why I've been thinking there's not much patentable in this project of mine, a patent being really only as valuable as a tool in supply and market position.

I have been actually trying to figure out how to approach the smallish racing/rodding community here for some time, but haven't learned how yet. I think almost all must live about 80 miles east in Kansas City, which is not an easy run. Doesn't seem to be much digital life of that kind, not at all surprising of course.

Your MG project sounds like quite a lot of fun. But a basic question: why do we need to evacuate crankcase pressure ?

Since you're using a 1300cc engine, yep, I'd start work with a single-output air charger (ionizer) unit, and I'd probably try ambient first, charge the air using the built-in carbon-fiber brushlet, and not try charging the filter for a while. See how she runs, and probably use 12 volt regulation, ambient doesn't deliver the punch that comes from charging the filter. Then when you have a solid understanding of behavior at ambient/12, I'd probably go with 2VDC regulation or maybe even 1VDC (to start with on a 1300cc), clipped onto a mesh-prepared filter, and see how you do. I can tell you that when it's "much too much" your normally-friendly engine will actually howl at idle, it was very interesting the one time I accidentally had that happen :)

But do put in a thermostat switch for the rig first, if your atmospheric temperatures ever dip past -7C. The overall idea is, if we charge air and it's too cold, or we charge too much, we get to replace one or more spark plugs :) On the other hand, my 1998-spec plugs are rather extremely different than 1949-spec, perhaps yours would be OK with a careful wire-brushing.

That "howl" really has me wondering about racing too. I do wonder, if really pushing the ionization with mixture changes and perhaps timing as well, would produce quite startling results. Each air charger / ionizer unit takes up a very small amount of electric power, something like 0.04A at 12V, so theoretically... But one would need ample play-room with which to test :)
Thanks for the advice Jonathan. I may experiment with a 1 v charger attached to my K&N Filter. It is a pre oiled metal gauze pancake type that will require occasional cleaning rather than replacement. The filter is bolted to the intake of a 1 3/4" SU carb on an Eaton M45 supercharger.

The need for positive crankcase ventilation is amplified with a blower ... as is the need to reduce oil leaks from the XPAG engine. The original draught tube is simply inadequate and a conventional PCV valve will not work with a pressurised system (without a lot of additional work) so I am installing an exhaust operated system. I have written a brief article for an on line MG magazine,TT2.

All good fun!

And thanks for the PCV education :) You sure put a lot of good info into that one sentence there, and I really do enjoy learning about own-built improvements over OEM any day of the week!

I do like 1V to start, if you're going with a clip immediately.

I have run K&N, but I should say, I do not know whether the oil will cause issues or prevent function. I had to replace a mass-air-flow sensor (mea culpa, miswiring blew its electronics...), and I discovered a thin layer of red dust from the K&N oil all over the innards. I could imagine that the oil itself became charged and then sprang forth. Or something. Didn't seem to be causing a problem, but since then I have been leery of oil-filled filters. aFe does make oil-less washable filters, and I have one on order :)

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