Deep reengineering of recent car and truck engines, is very questionable. The things are tweaked to the gills these days, with sensors upon sensors, wires everywhere, and black-box computerization being the master of all. So certainly I’m not going to try radical redesign; that’s for people with a whole lot more money, equipment, and time for the purpose. But what about something simple, that might never have been done before, or done thoroughly? Could we possibly tweak just one aspect of an auto or truck engine most carefully, with good result?

A negative ion generator, is a widget commonly used to improve air quality intended for human consumption. It “ionizes” 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” things which were little bricks that plugged in and hung onto wall power sockets. These did help, but the room’s ambient 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 the electronics are being built into quite a few air conditioners now, even the window air conditioner we bought a year or two ago has one inside it. And little ionizer appliances with fans, suitable for desks and auto dashboards, are now available from quite a few different companies; I have had one on my desk at work.

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 quite a few years ago) to be dangerous, and the idea of adding electrons to air bits to make them more reactive, sounds like a way to get a very nicely helpful 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 lot of looking around, from  Alanchi on AliExpress. These four-brush units are usually advertised as producing 30 million negatively charged particles per cubic centimeter at a certain distance, and this is a much higher rating than most.

Also unlike what I had 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 (there was what looked like a slow-moving, brightly glowing spark, rising off a needle, on a few occasions in my past experiences); 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. We don’t want to cause ourselves electrical problems of any sort; bad ones are very bad; if we want good and durable results we have to be careful, and this is my daily driver. One nice thing, this 30 M/cm3 ionizer element is only using 0.5 watt (0.041 amps at nominal 12V) of power, just a tiny sip.

Please do note, that what we want is explicitly not an “ozone generator”. Ozone is a peculiar and less stable molecular form of oxygen, and it is both poisonous and corrosive. We do not want any noticeable amount of this, in constant contact with anything we care to keep. It is used sometimes as a fumigating 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.

I have been just a tad concerned with possible corrosion. Ionization means reactivity: various components of air are being made more likely to do chemical reactions with things they encounter, than they would otherwise. But as of this writing, 2021-09-07, the project has been going almost three years, and there have been no evil signs, and quite a lot of definite good. For a while, I deliberately left unprotected metal (a screw-eye used to secure the air chargers) in the direct path of the charged air; there was absolutely zero sign of trouble on this, after many months of close exposure.

So 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. /Fuse Tap.pngWe 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 something called a “fuse tap”, which I learned about through web-searching.

First, you find a fuse in the engine-compartment fuse box which belongs to a device which is automatically on, when the ignition is on. You take out that fuse, plug the fuse tap in that socket, and then plug the old fuse and a second new fuse into the fuse tap’s own two sockets. The fuse tap has a wire end to crimp onto, and that runs to your new widget needing the power. These are very commonly used, I am told, for custom electronics. Your widget is then grounded to the frame.

But local auto retail had only 10-amp fuse taps for Bertha, and she has just one 10-amp fuse socket which turns on and off with the engine, marked “IGN” (Ignition I believe). There is a certain amount of web-advice against using this (in general one does not want anything to touch ignition besides ignition), but I ran with it for a while until the nagging in the back of my head got to me. Then I found a very few fuse taps in web-retail rated to 20 amps, and she has a few appropriate sockets like that, so I chose the one for A/C and we’re off 

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 the general vicinity of the air filter container. I ran the wire 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 anything happened within certain categories!  I followed the simple wording on the switch (+12VDC here, alien widgetry [translated: 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 ever want bits of them going into Bertha’s engine!

The “alien” part comes from my friend Matt Nicolay (Nicolay Service, Topeka, Kansas); he doesn’t have a web site or I’d have a link for him. Matt does a lot of good, even when he wonders about “alien artifacts” in the engine compartment 

So here’s the first installation:

 put in a switch with a light, for positive awareness of when the rig is off and on, and easy ability to turn it off just in case! Everything sat in the 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. Unlike other products, it does not make you wonder how much destruction you are doing to your lungs, or at least potentially, to your sense of reality; very good stuff, just works, and I have been using it for lots of different other things too.

It is true that I may end up regretting using epoxy if/when I eventually have to replace the ionizer units. But that’s fine, that may be what cordless electric drills are for  Also I still don’t know what I would/will use instead of the epoxy. And I haven’t tried to just pull the wires out, they may well just come with a little tension. We’ll see. 

Here’s a look inside the air filter compartment:

It does seem important to hold those wire ends well so they don’t get sucked onto the air filter surface, or flap around a lot; they’re sticking through only about an inch.

Anyhow. I’m now writing considerably after: I have fourteen air chargers mounted and engaged now, and the results have become better and better as I have added more. The last two are, according to their vendors, far more powerful than the others. I don’t think I am seeing far more results from the last two, but on the other hand, my measurement of results has a lot to be desired. The nearest dynotest service appears to be about 85 miles away in Kansas City, and is not inexpensive; and accurate meters to test the performance of the air charger units are very expensive indeed, they seem to start at about $800. But I sure do like the results I have, and so does a friend, and my sweet wife Lori has said “yes” to my putting two or three on her little Ford Focus! That’s quite a thing, Sweet Lori is quite a lot less susceptible to my hype than I am  But a most remarkable recent development came at the observation of Fritz, a friend, the owner of the second installation so far. He observed his temperature gauge staying steadily less, around 20 F if the gauge can be interpreted that closely. After hearing about this, I raised my own hood immediately after a 20-minute freeway ride in hot weather, and lo and behold, no wave of warm/hot air at all. This is a most surprising development, I did not expect it, but it is rather a welcome one, it means we really are getting more efficiency, the gasoline combustion is producing gas pressure (i.e., motive power!) with less waste heat. Wow.

I do have a page here listing more specific results to date, with some additional details; please do peruse if you are interested.