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Microprocessor controlled exhaust gas lambda sensor

Article  in  Microprocessors and Microsystems · June 2000

DOI: 10.1016/S0141-9331(00)00064-8


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Democritus University of Thrace


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Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127

Microprocessor controlled exhaust gas lambda sensor

P.N. Botsaris*, A. Polyhroniadis
Democritus University of Thrace, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering Department, Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, Xanthi, Greece
Received 13 April 1999; received in revised form 28 September 1999; accepted 29 September 1999

The present paper describes a new design for a microprocessor controlled lambda sensor device. This device can be used for the external
inspection and testing of an automobile’s internal lambda sensor. The device is based on the Motorola 68HC11a1 microprocessor and utilises
the linear signal from a new design oxygen sensor (linear air/fuel sensor, LAF) installed on it. This signal is processed in real time using an
appropriate algorithm and the corresponding results are presented on an LCD. The system can be readily installed and operated on new and
used cars and testifies if the car’s lambda sensor operates or not properly. It can also be reprogrammed and calibrated via a RS232C serial
interface. 䉷 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: On board diagnosis; Catalytic converter efficiency monitoring; Oxygen or lambda sensor; Emissions

1. Introduction states in the US and eventually by the E.U. with only minor
The development of the new generation of catalytic cars Presently, there are many types of sensors tested for cata-
using three-way catalysts and closed loop control via the lyst performance monitoring. The common type of sensor,
exhaust gas lambda (l ) or oxygen sensor must be con- used for routine catalyst performance measurements in a
sidered as very important steps towards the elimination of garage via infrared absorption, is very expensive and fragile
automotive emissions from the top position of urban pollu- for an OBD system. Therefore, alternative sensor tech-
tion sources. However, to take full advantage of this reduc- nologies are presently developed and tested [5–8].
tion, the car exhaust and fuel control systems must be in In the area of the lambda sensor diagnosis, there is no
good working order, since the US experience has shown, the method or sensor that operates simultaneously on board and
major portion of traffic air pollution is contributed by a monitors the performance of the main oxygen sensor till
small percentage of poorly maintained vehicles [1]. This today. The main oxygen sensor measures the excess oxygen
creates a strong need for catalyst and lambda sensor periodic present in the exhaust gas at the engine outlet. This amount
garage testing and maintenance procedures. To urge the of oxygen in the exhaust gas is used as an indirect measure-
driver to submit his car to periodic inspections, many ment of the air–fuel ratio. As, a result, one of the most
countries have passed legislation forcing 6 or 12 months significant automotive sensors in use today is the exhaust
regular exhaust gas tests and an official card file containing gas oxygen (EGO) sensor. This sensor is often called a
the results of all tests performed on the car exhaust system. lambda sensor from the Greek letter lambda (l ), which is
To alert the driver for possible faults in the emission commonly used to denote the equivalence ratio:
control system, the state of California requires that all cars
sold in this state after 1993 are equipped with an on-board air–fuel ratio
lˆ …1†
performance assessment system [2–4]. This system should air–fuel ratio at stoichiometry
be able to monitor catalyst deterioration and oxygen sensor
malfunction before they result in exhaust emissions. It is The catalytic converter is used to keep CO, HC, and NOx
clear that all car manufacturers interested in the California gases at a consistently high purification ratio. This necessi-
auto market will try to comply with these specifications and tates precise control of the air–fuel ratio to keep it within a
sooner or later, as the OBD technology progresses, the narrow window of proximity to the stoichiometric air–fuel
present California legislation will also be adopted by other ratio. When the air–fuel mixture has too much air, the
condition is represented by lambda greater than one …l ⬎
* Corresponding author. 1†: Conversely, when the air–fuel mixture has too little
0141-9331/00/$ - see front matter 䉷 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S0141-933 1(00)00064-8
122 P.N. Botsaris, A. Polyhroniadis / Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127

Fig. 1. Linear lambda sensor.

air (too much fuel), the condition is represented by an microprocessor [9]. The a1 includes 512 bytes of EEPROM,
equivalence ratio of lambda less than one …l ⬍ 1†: 256 bytes RAM and 192 bytes of ROM memory. It is manu-
The present paper describes a monitoring device based on factured with HCMOS technology (high operation speed
the linear output signal of a commercial linear lambda and low consumption). The a1 has many powerful interfaces
sensor that attempts to provide a similarly vague evaluation for connections with peripheral devices. The fundamental
of the main automobile lambda sensor performance by using requirement of the microprocessor controlled device is to
a simple, fast, inexpensive, and dependable monitoring record the output signal from the linear lambda sensor
method. The operating principle of this system is to measure (LAF) installed at the engine outlet section and process
the excess oxygen present in the exhaust gas at the engine this signal in real time using an appropriate algorithm.
outlet, calculate the l ratio and compare its value with the The corresponding results are compared with the main
value of the engines lambda sensor. The comparison’s result oxygen sensor values to assess the current state of its effi-
determines if the main lambda sensor output is accurate or ciency. Fig. 2 illustrates the major system components. Note
not. As it is mentioned before the main lambda sensor’s that the ability to operate in a remote environment using the
output signal is crucial for the engines closed loop control. vehicle’s battery as the only source was an important design
Fig. 1 shows the commercial lambda sensor that is used. criterion. The device’s A/D converter, after an appropriate
initial processing and adapting, senses the sensor’s output
signal as a voltage signal. According to a experimentally
2. System overview calibration process (it is discussed later) this output voltage
is used for the calculation of the l ratio. Firstly, the ratio is
The device is based on the Motorola 68HC11a1 8-bit presented on a 2 × 16 LCD in a decimal format and

Fig. 2. Major system components.

P.N. Botsaris, A. Polyhroniadis / Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127 123

Table 1 Table 2
Device specification U output signal vs l values

System Specifications No. U output (V) l

Microprocessor 68HC11a1 1 2.17 1.2

Special bootstrap mode 2 2.1 1.16
512 Kbytes EEPROM 3 2.09 1.15
256 bytes of static RAM 4 2.05 1.12
192 bytes ROM 5 2.03 1.11
16 bit timer 6 1.91 1.07
8ch. 8 bit ADC:input range 7 1.89 1.03
0–5 V 8 1.88 1
Four programmable chip selects 9 1.86 0.96
Real time clock 10 1.85 0.93
Low power RS232C drivers/ MC145407, Motorola 11 1.84 0.91
receivers 12 1.83 0.88
Voltage Regulator LM317T 13 1.83 0.87
Voltage Regulator and power LP2951 14 1.82 0.86
on reset 15 1.82 0.84
16 1.81 0.83
Linear lambda sensor Range: 0.8–1.2 17 1.8 0.82
Span: ⫹ 0.24 to ⫺0.24 V 18 1.79 0.81
Sensitivity: 0.001% of span
19 1.79 0.8
Uout in air: 2 V 20 1.78 0.8
Supply voltage: 12–28 V DC 21 1.77 0.8
Response time: 20 s 22 1.76 0.79
Output voltage: 1.68–2.1 V
23 1.75 0.79
Signal amplifying and filtering Amp-04 Analog devices 24 1.74 0.79
precision single supply 25 1.7 0.78
instrumentation amplifier. 26 1.68 0.77
Supply current: 700 mA max.
Gain: 1–1000
Offset voltage: 150 mV max.
three-phase boundary. A counteractive electrical field is
User interface output Liquid crystal display
created, and an electrical voltage U corresponding to the
OMI HD44780A00
16 char: × 2 lines partial-ratio is generated.
alphanumeric The linear air/fuel sensor (LAF) sensor is a skilful combi-
nation of a limiting-current sensor with a concentration
oxygen cell on a single substrate producing a dual wide-
range air/fuel sensor. A gas intake opening is serves as a
secondly it is compared with the main on vehicle lambda diffusion barrier to control limiting current. An electronic
sensor signal. The result of the comparison characterises the circuit regulates the current applied to the pumping cell to
latter’s sensor performance. Table 1 illustrates the device maintain a constant gas composition in the measurement
specifications. gap. This corresponds to a U of 450 mV approximately. If
the exhaust gas is lean, the pumping cell drives the oxygen
2.1. Linear air/fuel sensor outward from the measurement gap. If the exhaust gas is
rich, the flow direction is reversed and oxygen from the
In principle, the lambda sensor operates as a solid- surrounding exhaust gas is pumped into the measuring
electrolyte galvanic oxygen concentration cell. A ceramic gap. The pumping current is proportional to the oxygen
element consisting of zirconium dioxide and yttrium oxide concentration. Via the attendant electronic control circuitry,
is employed as a gas impermeable solid electrolyte. This a linear signal increase over a wide lambda range of 0:8 ⬍
mixed oxide is an almost perfect conductor of oxygen l ⬍ air can be obtained if the current is calibrated to
ions over a wide temperature range. The solid electrolyte account for the manufacture scattering. Table 2 presents
is designed to separate the exhaust gas from the reference the output voltage signal U of LAF according to its l values.
atmosphere. Both sides feature catalytically active platinum These data are obtained experimentally during the sensor’s
electrodes. At the inner electrode the electron reaction calibration procedure with a common non-dispersive infra-
red (NIR) exhaust-gas analyser and an oscilloscope. The
O2 ⫹ 4e⫺ ! 2O2⫺ …2† device l sensor was fitted on a 1100 cm 3 FIAT multi-
point injection catalytic engine in the manifold output.
incorporates oxygen ions in electrolyte. These migrate to The analyser measures before the three-way catalytic
the outer electrode, where the counteraction occurs at the converter as the oscilloscope records the device l sensor
124 P.N. Botsaris, A. Polyhroniadis / Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127

Fig. 3. U output vs l .

voltage output signal. Fig. 3 presents the sensor’s output 3. System implementation
signal U vs the l ratio. The integrated heating element
provides an operating temperature in excess of 250⬚C in 3.1. Hardware
20 s. The sensor’s power supply is 12.8 V and 1.45 A in
normal operating conditions. The hardware design was implemented to give a platform

Fig. 4. Microprocessor controlled lambda sensor device.

P.N. Botsaris, A. Polyhroniadis / Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127 125

Fig. 5. Measuring period.

Fig. 6. Power supply circuit.

Fig. 7. Sensor’s adapting circuit.

Fig. 8. RC Power-on reset circuit.

for future developments. This explains the choice of a Fig. 9. Program’s flow chart.
powerful microcontroller as the a1. The a1 is configured
to operate in a special bootstrap mode. The bootstrap bootstrap test program. Consequently, even if the test
mode is entered at reset time by grounding both the program consists of less than 256 bytes, it must be filled
MODA and MODB lines. This is a valuable asset for debug- out with the extra bytes needed to bring the total number
ging a board controlled by the 68HC11, since it means that of bytes transferred up to 257. The 257th byte triggers the a1
any number of test programs can be loaded into its internal to begin the execution of the program. Fig. 4 shows the
RAM (one program per bootstrap loading of the RAM). The components necessary to implement the required system
bootstrap loading operation is initiated by grounding the with the microprocessor as a core element. The a1’s conver-
MODB line, connecting the R × D serial input to the ter is a 8-bit converter, with sample-hold, which carries out
RS232C port from a personal computer and then raising four conversions in a total of 64 ms. The four conversions
the Reset line. In the present system, the 68HC11a1, is can be four samples of a single input spaced 16 ms apart or
being clocked from an 8 MHz crystal, then the program is they can be four samples taken one right after the next, each
loaded at 1200 baud, where each character is formatted with from a different input channel and sampled 16 ms apart. The
a start bit, eight data bits, and a stop bit. The PC transfers Motorola 68HC11a1’s A/D converter has been programmed
exactly 257 bytes, beginning with an operating character to operate at the first mode …ADCTL ˆ $20† in the current
of FF. (hex), followed by 256 bytes which will load the diagnostic measuring device. Fig. 5 illustrates the single
internal RAM, beginning at hexadecimal address 0000. scan of one channel. A liquid crystal display of two rows
When the 257th byte has been transferred, the a1 loads and 16 characters each is used for monitoring the results. It
its program counter with 0000 and begins executing the should be noted that the display could be expanded up to a
126 P.N. Botsaris, A. Polyhroniadis / Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127

Fig. 10. l sensor device output vs on-board l sensor output.

4 × 40 at no extra software overhead. Additionally, the Fig. 6 presents the sensor’s power supply circuit. The heated
LCDs response time is shorter than the sensor’s response element inputs are connected to the vehicle’s battery
time. directly. The high voltage input is fitted to the 5 V voltage
regulator output as the low one is grounded. For the lambda
3.2. Analogue shaping circuitry sensor’s output adapting there is the Fig. 7 circuitry included
as an instrumentation amplifier with closed loop gain of 2.22
The main-function of this circuitry is to use the signal of and a lowpass filter. The amplifier increases the sensor’s
the lambda sensor to provide an acceptable output voltage response span and the lowpass filter the time constant of
signal that varies with the exhaust gas oxygen variation. 8.2 ms.When the power is first turned on, we want to ensure
that the microcontroller sees its active-low reset input held
Table 3
Experimental results low until the power to the chip reaches its specified mini-
mum value for proper operation of the chip (4.5 V). If the
No. l Sensor output U (V) On-board l sensor output (V) reset input is not held low until this time, then the CPU will
1 2.17 2.15
not see it and will not act in a manner which we except. The
2 2.1 2.08 reset circuit used with the a1 microcontroller in this assign-
3 2.09 2.07 ment is the RC circuit shown in Fig. 8. For this to work
4 2.05 2.03 correctly, the RC time constant must be long enough to hold
5 2.03 2.01 the reset input below its threshold value. This calls for a
6 1.91 1.87
7 1.89 1.86
large RC value. On the contrary, the R value must be low
8 1.88 1.84 enough to pull the reset input high in spite of the leakage
9 1.86 1.83 current specification for the reset input. These require-
10 1.85 1.82 ments lead to a RC value of 0.22 ms …R ˆ 1 kV and
11 1.84 1.8 C ˆ 0:22 mF†:The quantitation error of the 8-bit ADC is
12 1.83 1.8
13 1.83 1.8
^1/2 bit, which is equal to ^0.2% or ^10 mV for a 5.1 V
14 1.82 1.8 range. Further, the ranges, resolution and gain available on a
15 1.82 1.78 DAQ (Data Acquisition) board determine the smallest
16 1.81 1.77 detectable change in input voltage. This change in voltage
17 1.8 1.76 represents 1 LSB of the digital value, and is often called the
18 1.79 1.77
19 1.79 1.77
code width. The ideal code width is found by dividing the
20 1.78 1.77 voltage range by the gain time two raised to the order of
bits in the resolution. For current device the theoretical
P.N. Botsaris, A. Polyhroniadis / Microprocessors and Microsystems 24 (2000) 121–127 127

resolution of 1 bit in the digitised value is: output signal is processed in real time using an appropriate
algorithm and the corresponding l value is presented on an
Voltage range=…Gain† × …2 resolution bits
† ˆ 5=100 × 2 8
LCD display. The system can be readily installed and oper-
ˆ 0:2 mV: …3† ated on new and used cars provided that the on-board l
sensor used has been experimentally tested to provide the
necessary values that characterise its relative levels of effi-
ciency. It can also be reprogrammed and calibrated through
4. Software
a RS232C serial interface. The system’s expansion with an
The current version of the software which accompanies external EEPROM with higher capacity will be very useful
the measuring device, is in a preliminary stage. It has not for the storage and consequently statistical process of a
reached yet in its final form because it remains to be greater number of measurements. The addition of an
decided, the main routines that will be executed. The external keyboard will increase its portability.
program for the basic system operation was written in
Dr Pantelis N. Botsaris obtained an MSc
Motorola’s 68HC11 assembly language and performs the degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering
following tasks: Department from Democritus University of
Thrace (DUTH), Hellas in 1991. Afterwards,
• Initialise the LCD. he obtained his PhD degree from the same
• Initialise the RTC (Real Time Clock). Department in 1996 in the field of Internal
• Configure SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface). Combustion Engines (ICE) and Emissions
• Configure Creek characters for the LCD. Control. He is a visit Lecturer and his current
research activities include automotive electronics
• Wait messages for warm up the sensor.
and onboard diagnostics (OBD).
• Control of the sampling voltage.
• Obtain continues measurements from one channel.
• Process the measurements and calculation of l .
• Present the l measurement to the LCD. Akis Polyhroniadis obtained an MSc degree in Electrical and Compu-
• Repeat the measuring loop. ter Engineering Department from Democritus University of Thrace
(DUTH), Hellas in 1998. Now, he is a research assistant at the Mechan-
Fig. 9 illustrates the flow chart of the main program. The ical Engineering Laboratory in DUTH and his current research activ-
basic operation of the software is to continuously go around ities include automotive and commercial electronics.
a loop, presenting messages when required. The operation is
interrupted only by the user. References

[1] H. Kingenberg, K.H. Neumann, Ueberpruefung der Abgasemissionen

5. Operational-performance
des Einzelfahrzeugs in Kundenhand, VDI-Ber. 531 (1984).
[2] O. Hadded, J. Stokes, D.W. Grigg, Low Emission Vehicle Technology
As an example of the monitoring function, Table 3 illu- for ULEV and European Stage 3 Emission Standards, Mech. Engng
strates the output of the microprocessor controlled l sensor Publ. (1993) 59–69 (AUTOTECH 93).
device compared with the on-board l sensor output of a [3] J.M. Dunne, P.J. Greening, European Emission Standards to the Year
1100 cm 3 FIAT multipoint injection engine with three-way 2000, Worldwide Engine Emission Standards and How to Meet them,
Mech. Engng Publ. (1993) 1–8.
catalytic (TWC) converter at idle speed. Fig. 10 shows the
[4] J.M. Kotzan, On-board diagnostics for emission control systems, SAE
Table 3 results. The results show satisfactory performance, paper No. 911215.
accuracy of the device and excellent repeatability. [5] A. Unger, K. Smith, Second generation on board diagnostics, Auto-
mative Engng J January (1994) 104–107.
[6] W.J. Koupal, A.M. Sabourin, B.W. Clemmens, Detection of catalyst
6. Conclusion failure on-vehicle using the dual oxygen sensor method, SAE Paper
The present paper describes a new design for a micro- [7] W. Cai, N. Collings, A catalytic oxidation sensor for the on-board
processor controlled exhaust gas lambda sensor device. The detection of misfire and catalyst efficiency, SAE Paper 922248, Inter-
national Fuels & Lubricants Meeting and Exposition San Francisco,
device is based on the Motorola 68HC11a1 microprocessor
California, 19–22 October 1992.
and utilises the signal from a linear lambda sensor installed [8] W. Cai, N. Collings, Unburnt hydrocarbon measurement by means of a
at the engine outlet manifold. The choice of the a1 has been surface ionisation detector, SAE Paper 910254.
useful for building a platform for further development. The [9] Motorola Technical Data Book HC11, 1989.

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