Advanced electronically controlled diesel engines require a feedback signal to the ECU to adjust different operating parameters and meet demands for power, better fuel economy and low emissions. Different types of in-cylinder combustion sensors are being considered to produce this signal. This paper presents results of an experimental investigation on the characteristics of the ion current in an automotive diesel engine equipped with a common rail injection system. The engine is a 1.9 L, 4-cylinder, direct injection diesel engine. Experiments covered different engine loads and injection pressures. The relationships between the ion current, combustion parameters and engine out NO emissions and opacity are presented. The analysis of the experimental data identified possible sources of the ion current produced in diesel engines.

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