The effect of electrode temperature on the sparking voltage of short spark gaps

Silsbee, F B

This report presents the results of an investigation to determine what effect the temperature of spark plug electrodes might have on the voltage at which a spark occurred. A spark gap was set up so that one electrode could be heated to temperatures up to 700 degrees C., while the other electrode and the air in the gap were maintained at room temperature. The sparking voltages were measured both with direct voltage and with voltage impulse from ignition coil. It was found that the sparking voltage of the gap decreased materially with increase of temperature. This change was more marked when the hot electrode was of negative polarity. The phenomena observed can be explained by the ionic theory of gaseous conduction, and serve to account for certain hitherto unexplained actions in the operation of internal combustion engines. These results indicate that the ignition spark will pass more readily when the spark-plug design is such as to make the electrodes run hot. This possible gain is, however, very closely limited by the danger of producing preignition. These experiments also show that sparking is somewhat easier when the hot electrode (which is almost always the central electrode) is negative than when the polarity is reversed.

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