Flame monitoring of industrial combustors with high-reliability sensors is essential to operation security and performance. An ion current flame sensor with a simple structure has great potential to be widely used, but a weak ion current is the critical defect to its reliability. In this study, parameters of the ion current sensor used for monitoring flames on a Bunsen burner are suggested, and a method of further improving the ion current is proposed. Effects of the parameters, including the excitation voltage, electrode area, and electrode radial and vertical positions on the ion current, were investigated. The ion current grew linearly with the excitation voltage. Given that the electrodes were in contact with the flame fronts, the ion current increased with the contact area of the cathode but independent of the contact area of the anode. The smaller electrode radial position resulted in a higher ion current. The ion current was insensitive to the anode vertical position but largely sensitive to the cathode vertical position. Based on the above ion current regularities, the sensor parameters were suggested as follows: The burner served as a cathode and the platinum wire acted as an anode. The excitation voltage, anode radial and vertical positions were 120 V, 0 mm, and 6 mm, respectively. The method of further improving the ion current by adding multiple sheet cathodes near the burner exit was proposed and verified. The results show that the ion current sensor with the suggested parameters could correctly identify the flame state, including the ignition, combustion, and extinction, and the proposed method could significantly improve the magnitude of the ion current.
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