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 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 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) 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. The pic is for the 12VDC version, it comes in 110VAC 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 appears to be much more powerful than any of the others I could find, except one which is 220VAC-only from the same source. 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 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 (I saw what looked like a slow-moving, brightly glowing spark, rising off a needle, on at least two or three occasions); 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; we have to be careful, and this is my daily driver. One nice thing, this 30 M/cm3 ionizer element is only using 1 watt 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 regular contact with anything we care to keep. 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.
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, 2019-08-15, the project has been going about eight months, and there have been no evil signs yet, and quite a lot of definite good. And I deliberately left unprotected metal (a screw-eye used to secure the air chargers) in the direct path of the charged air; there is absolutely zero sign of trouble on this, after 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. 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 something called a “fuse tap”, which I learned about through web-searching. You take out an existing fuse in the engine fuse-box, plug the fuse tap in that socket, 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. These are very commonly used, I am told, for custom electronics.
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 one and we’re off :-)
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 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 favorite local mechanic, 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 to keep us safe, even when he finds alien artifacts in the engine compartment!
So here’s the first installation:
I put a switch in with a light, for positive awareness of when the rig is off and on, and ability to turn it off in case of! 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 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’s what cordless electric drills are for ☺ Also I still don’t know what I would/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 mists of memory, I don’t have precision for it, 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 these days, right…?
Anyhow. At this writing, I have nine of those air chargers engaged, and the results have gotten better and better as I have added more. I have four more in a box, and good room for just three more on the air-cleaner cover. I may add the three more...but there is another option. I have received some unconfirmed input stating that it is at -4,000 volts where negative ionization happens with minimal ozone generation, and I have found a source of single DC-DC power supplies each of which, at first very quick guess only, appear to be able to deliver the equivalent of twenty of my current Alanchi consumer air chargers. I am going to do a lot more studying before I buy a new cover for Bertha's air filter, but if and when I can be confident of what I'm doing...!
I do have a page here listing specific results to date, with some additional details; please do peruse if you are interested.