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Patent Analysis of

Control system of internal combustion engine

Updated Time 12 June 2019

Patent Registration Data

Publication Number

US10001076

Application Number

US14/763022

Application Date

29 January 2013

Publication Date

19 June 2018

Current Assignee

TOYOTA JIDOSHA KABUSHIKI KAISHA

Original Assignee (Applicant)

AOKI, KEIICHIRO,HAYASHITA, GO

International Classification

F02D41/14,F02D41/02,G01N27/41

Cooperative Classification

F02D41/1455,F02D41/0235,F02D41/1473,G01N27/41,F02D41/1401

Inventor

HAYASHITA, GO,AOKI, KEIICHIRO

Patent Images

This patent contains figures and images illustrating the invention and its embodiment.

US10001076 Control internal combustion 1 US10001076 Control internal combustion 2 US10001076 Control internal combustion 3
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Abstract

This control device for an internal combustion engine is equipped with: an air/fuel ratio sensor provided to the exhaust passage of an internal combustion engine; and an engine control device that controls the internal combustion engine on the basis of the sensor output current of the air/fuel ratio sensor. The air/fuel ratio sensor is equipped with: a gas chamber to be measured, into which exhaust gas flows; a reference cell for which the reference cell output current varies according to the air/fuel ratio of the exhaust gas inside the gas chamber to be measured; and a pump cell that, according to the pump current, pumps oxygen into or out of the exhaust gas in the gas chamber to be measured. The reference cell is configured so that the applied voltage, at which the reference cell output current reaches zero, varies according to the air/fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the gas chamber to be measured. The applied voltage in the reference cell is fixed at a constant voltage, said constant voltage being set to a voltage different to the voltage at which the reference cell output current reaches zero when the air/fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the gas chamber to be measured is the stoichiometric air/fuel ratio.

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Claims

1. A control system of an internal combustion engine, comprising: an air-fuel ratio sensor which is provided in an exhaust passage of the internal combustion engine, and an engine control device which controls the internal combustion engine based on a sensor output current of said air-fuel ratio sensor, wherein said air-fuel ratio sensor comprises: a measured gas chamber into which exhaust gas, for which the air-fuel ratio is to be detected, flows; a reference cell with a reference cell output current which changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber; and a pump cell which pumps in oxygen and pumps it out with respect to exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber in accordance with a pump current, said reference cell is configured so that the applied voltage, by which the reference cell output current becomes zero, changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber and so that, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, if increasing the applied voltage at the reference cell, the reference cell output current increases along with it, when said air-fuel ratio sensor detects the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the applied voltage at said reference cell is fixed to a constant voltage, said constant voltage being a voltage which is different from the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and a voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is an air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, and said air-fuel ratio sensor further comprises: a pump current control device which controls a pump current so that said reference cell output current becomes zero; and a pump current detection device which detects the pump current as said sensor output current.

2. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said reference cell comprises: a first electrode which is exposed to exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber; a second electrode which is exposed to a reference atmosphere; and a solid electrolyte layer which is arranged between said first electrode and said second electrode, and said air-fuel ratio sensor further comprises a diffusion regulating layer, said diffusion regulating layer being arranged so that exhaust gas reaches said first electrode through said diffusion regulating layer.

3. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 2, wherein said diffusion regulating layer is arranged so that exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber reaches said first electrode through said diffusion regulating layer.

4. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said reference cell is configured so as to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, a limit current region which is a voltage region where said reference cell output current becomes a limit current, and said constant voltage is a voltage within said limit current region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

5. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said reference cell is configured to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, regarding the relationship between said applied voltage and reference cell output current, a proportional region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current increases in proportion to an increase of the applied voltage, a moisture breakdown region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current changes in accordance with a change of the applied voltage due to the breakdown of moisture, and an intermediate region which is a voltage region between these proportional region and moisture breakdown region, and said constant voltage is a voltage within said intermediate region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

6. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said constant voltage is set to a voltage between the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is 1% higher than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is 1% lower than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

7. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said reference cell is configured so that, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, regarding the relationship between said applied voltage and reference cell output current, the reference cell output current increases up to a first curved point as the applied voltage increases, the reference cell output current increases from the first curved point to a second curved point as the applied voltage increases, the reference cell output current increases from the second curved point as the applied voltage increases, and, in the voltage region between the first curved point and the second curved point, the amount of increase of the reference cell output current with respect to an amount of increase in the applied voltage becomes smaller than in other voltage regions, and said constant voltage is set to a voltage between said first curved point and said second curved point when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

8. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 2, wherein said reference cell is configured so as to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, a current increase region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current increases along with an increase in the applied voltage, and current fine increase region which is a voltage region where an amount of increase of the reference cell output current with respect to an amount of increase of the applied voltage becomes smaller than said current increase region due to provision of said diffusion regulating layer, and said constant voltage is a voltage within said current fine increase region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

9. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 2, wherein said diffusion regulating layer is formed by alumina, and said constant voltage is set to 0.1V to 0.9V.

10. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said engine control device judges that the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a predetermined air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current of said air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero.

11. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein said internal combustion engine comprises an exhaust purification catalyst which is provided in said exhaust passage at the upstream side, in the direction of exhaust flow, from said air-fuel ratio sensor and which can store oxygen, and said constant voltage is set to a voltage by which said reference cell output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a predetermined rich judged air-fuel ratio which is richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

12. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 11, wherein said engine control device can control the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into said exhaust purification catalyst and, when the sensor output current of said air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero or less, the target air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into said exhaust purification catalyst is set leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

13. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 12, wherein said engine control device comprises: an oxygen storage amount increasing means for continuously or intermittently setting a target air-fuel ratio of exhaust gas flowing into said exhaust purification catalyst leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current of said air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero or less, until the oxygen storage amount of said exhaust purification catalyst becomes a predetermined storage amount which is smaller than the maximum oxygen storage amount; and an oxygen storage amount decreasing means for continuously or intermittently setting said target air-fuel ratio richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the oxygen storage amount of said exhaust purification catalyst becomes said predetermined storage amount or more, so that the oxygen storage amount never reaches the maximum oxygen storage amount but decreases toward zero.

14. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 13, wherein a difference between an average value of said target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in the time period when the target air-fuel ratio is continuously or intermittently set leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio by said oxygen storage amount increasing means, is larger than a difference between an average value of said target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in the time period when the target air-fuel ratio is continuously or intermittently set richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio by said oxygen storage amount decreasing means.

15. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 11, wherein said control system of an internal combustion engine comprises an upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor which is provided in an engine exhaust passage at an upstream side, in the direction of exhaust flow, from said exhaust purification catalyst, and said engine control device controls the exhaust air-fuel ratio based on the output of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor so that the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into said exhaust purification catalyst becomes a target air-fuel ratio.

16. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 15, wherein said upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor is configured so that an applied voltage whereby a sensor output current becomes zero, changes in accordance with the exhaust air-fuel ratio and so that when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, if increasing the applied voltage at said upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor, the sensor output current increases along with that, and the applied voltage at said upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor is lower than the applied voltage of said air-fuel ratio sensor.

17. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 16, wherein when said upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor detects the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the applied voltage at said upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor is fixed to a constant voltage, and said constant voltage is set to a voltage whereby the sensor output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

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Claim Tree

  • 1
    1. A control system of an internal combustion engine, comprising:
    • an air-fuel ratio sensor which is provided in an exhaust passage of the internal combustion engine, and an engine control device which controls the internal combustion engine based on a sensor output current of said air-fuel ratio sensor, wherein said air-fuel ratio sensor comprises: a measured gas chamber into which exhaust gas, for which the air-fuel ratio is to be detected, flows
    • a reference cell with a reference cell output current which changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber
    • and a pump cell which pumps in oxygen and pumps it out with respect to exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber in accordance with a pump current, said reference cell is configured so that the applied voltage, by which the reference cell output current becomes zero, changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber and so that, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, if increasing the applied voltage at the reference cell, the reference cell output current increases along with it, when said air-fuel ratio sensor detects the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the applied voltage at said reference cell is fixed to a constant voltage, said constant voltage being a voltage which is different from the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and a voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is an air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, and said air-fuel ratio sensor further comprises: a pump current control device which controls a pump current so that said reference cell output current becomes zero
    • and a pump current detection device which detects the pump current as said sensor output current.
    • 2. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said reference cell comprises:
    • 4. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said reference cell is configured so as to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, a limit current region which is a voltage region where said reference cell output current becomes a limit current, and said constant voltage is a voltage within said limit current region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.
    • 5. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said reference cell is configured to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, regarding the relationship between said applied voltage and reference cell output current, a proportional region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current increases in proportion to an increase of the applied voltage, a moisture breakdown region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current changes in accordance with a change of the applied voltage due to the breakdown of moisture, and an intermediate region which is a voltage region between these proportional region and moisture breakdown region, and said constant voltage is a voltage within said intermediate region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.
    • 6. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said constant voltage is set to a voltage between the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is 1% higher than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in said measured gas chamber is 1% lower than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.
    • 7. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said reference cell is configured so that, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, regarding the relationship between said applied voltage and reference cell output current, the reference cell output current increases up to a first curved point as the applied voltage increases, the reference cell output current increases from the first curved point to a second curved point as the applied voltage increases, the reference cell output current increases from the second curved point as the applied voltage increases, and, in the voltage region between the first curved point and the second curved point, the amount of increase of the reference cell output current with respect to an amount of increase in the applied voltage becomes smaller than in other voltage regions, and said constant voltage is set to a voltage between said first curved point and said second curved point when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.
    • 10. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said engine control device judges that the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a predetermined air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current of said air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero.
    • 11. The control system of an internal combustion engine according to claim 1, wherein
      • said internal combustion engine comprises
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Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This is a national phase application based on the PCT International Patent Application No. PCT/JP2013/051912 filed Jan. 29, 2013, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a control system of an internal combustion engine which controls the internal combustion engine in accordance with the output of an air-fuel ratio sensor.

BACKGROUND ART

In the past, a control system of an internal combustion engine which is provided with an air-fuel ratio sensor in an exhaust passage of the internal combustion engine and controls the amount of fuel fed to the internal combustion engine based on the output of this air-fuel ratio sensor, has been widely known (for example, see PLTs 1 to 6). Further, the air-fuel ratio sensor which is used in such a control system has also been widely known.

Such air-fuel ratio sensors may be roughly divided into single-cell types of air-fuel ratio sensors (for example, PLTs 2 and 4) and double-cell types of air-fuel ratio sensors (for example, PLTs 1, 3, and 5). In a single-cell type of air-fuel ratio sensor, only a single cell comprised of a solid electrolyte layer which can pass oxygen ions and two electrodes which are provided on both side surfaces of the layer, is provided. One of the electrodes thereof is exposed to the atmosphere, while the other electrode is exposed to the exhaust gas through a diffusion regulating layer. In the thus configured single-cell type of air-fuel ratio sensor, voltage is applied across two electrodes which are arranged on the both side surfaces of the solid electrolyte layer. Along with this, between the two side surfaces of the solid electrolyte layer, movement of oxygen ions occurs in accordance with the ratio of concentration of oxygen between these side surfaces. By detecting the current generated by this movement of oxygen ions, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas (below, also referred to as the “exhaust air-fuel ratio”) is detected (for example, PLT 2).

On the other hand, in a double-cell type of air-fuel ratio sensor, two cells, each comprised of a solid electrolyte layer which can pass oxygen ions and two electrodes which are provided on both side surfaces of the layer, are provided. One cell (reference cell) among these is configured so that the detected voltage (electromotive force) changes in accordance with a concentration of oxygen in exhaust gas in a measured gas chamber. Further, the other cell (pump cell) pumps oxygen in and pumps it out with respect to the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber, in accordance with a pump current. In particular, the pump current of the pump cell is set so as to pump in oxygen and pump it out so as to make the detected voltage which is detected at the reference cell conform to a target voltage value. By detecting this pump current, the exhaust air-fuel ratio is detected.

CITATION LIST

Patent Literature

PLT 1: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2002-357589A

PLT 2: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2005-351096A

PLT 3: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2004-258043A

PLT 4: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2000-536618A

PLT 5: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2003-329637A

PLT 6: Japanese Patent Publication No. H8-232723A

PLT 7: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2009-162139A

PLT 8: Japanese Patent Publication No. 2001-234787A

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

Technical Problem

In this regard, the air-fuel ratio sensor such as described in PLTs 1-5 is generally configured to have the output characteristic which is shown by the solid line A in FIG. 2. That is, in this air-fuel ratio sensor, the larger the exhaust air-fuel ratio (that is, the leaner), the larger the output current from the air-fuel ratio sensor. In addition, this air-fuel ratio sensor is configured so that the output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

However, the slant in FIG. 2, that is, the ratio of the amount of increase of the output current to the amount of increase of the exhaust air-fuel ratio (below, the “rate of change of output current”) is not necessarily the same even if produced through a similar production process. Even with the same model of air-fuel ratio sensors, differences occur between the individual sensors. In addition, even at the same air-fuel ratio sensor, aging, etc., cause the changing rate of output current to change. As a result, even if using the same type of sensors, depending on the sensor used or period of use, etc., as shown in FIG. 2 by the broken line B, the changing rate of output current becomes smaller or, as shown by the one-dot chain line C, the changing rate of output current becomes larger.

For this reason, even when using the same model of air-fuel ratio sensor to measure exhaust gas of the same air-fuel ratio, the output current of the air-fuel ratio sensor will differ depending on the sensor used, the duration of usage, etc. For example, when the air-fuel ratio sensor has the output characteristic such as shown by the solid line A, the output current becomes I2 when measuring exhaust gas with the air-fuel ratio af1. However, when the air-fuel ratio sensor has the output characteristics such as shown by the broken line B and the one-dot chain line C, the output currents become respectively I1 and I3, which are different from the above-mentioned I2, when measuring exhaust gas with the air-fuel ratio af1.

Therefore, in this air-fuel ratio sensor, it is possible to accurately detect the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and rich and lean with respect to the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, but when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas is not the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, the absolute value (that is, rich degree or lean degree) could not be accurately detected. T

Therefore, in consideration of the above problem, an object of the present invention is to provide a control system of an internal combustion engine which uses an air-fuel ratio sensor which can detect an absolute value of an air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas, even when the air-fuel ratio thereof is not a stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

Solution to Problem

To solve the above problem, in a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a control system of an internal combustion engine, comprising: an air-fuel ratio sensor which is provided in an exhaust passage of the internal combustion engine, and an engine control device which controls the internal combustion engine based on a sensor output current of the air-fuel ratio sensor, wherein the air-fuel ratio sensor comprises: a measured gas chamber into which exhaust gas, for which the air-fuel ratio is to be detected, flows; a reference cell with a reference cell output current which changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber; and a pump cell which pumps in oxygen and pumps it out with respect to exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber in accordance with a pump current, the reference cell is configured so that the applied voltage, by which the reference cell output current becomes zero, changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber and so that, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, if increasing the applied voltage at the reference cell, the reference cell output current increases along with it, when the air-fuel ratio sensor detects the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the applied voltage at the reference cell is fixed to a constant voltage, the constant voltage being a voltage which is different from the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and a voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber is an air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, and the air-fuel ratio sensor further comprises: a pump current control device which controls a pump current so that the reference cell output current becomes zero; and a pump current detection device which detects the pump current as the sensor output current.

In a second aspect of the invention, there is provided the first aspect of the invention, wherein the reference cell comprises: a first electrode which is exposed to exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber; a second electrode which is exposed to a reference atmosphere; and a solid electrolyte layer which is arranged between the first electrode and the second electrode, and the air-fuel ratio sensor further comprises a diffusion regulating layer, the diffusion regulating layer being arranged so that exhaust gas reaches the first electrode through the diffusion regulating layer.

In a third aspect of the invention, there is provided the second aspect of the invention, wherein the diffusion regulating layer is arranged so that exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber reaches the first electrode through the diffusion regulating layer.

In a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the first to third aspects of the invention, wherein the reference cell is configured so as to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, a limit current region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current becomes a limit current, and the constant voltage is a voltage within the limit current region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In a fifth aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the first to third aspects of the invention, wherein the reference cell is configured to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, regarding the relationship between the applied voltage and reference cell output current, a proportional region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current increases in proportion to an increase of the applied voltage, a moisture breakdown region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current changes in accordance with a change of the applied voltage due to the breakdown of moisture, and an intermediate region which is a voltage region between these proportional region and moisture breakdown region, and the constant voltage is a voltage within the intermediate region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In a sixth aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the first to third aspects of the invention, wherein the constant voltage is set to a voltage between the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is 1% higher than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and the voltage whereby the reference cell output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber is 1% lower than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In a seventh aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the first to third aspects of the invention, wherein the reference cell is configured so that, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, regarding the relationship between the applied voltage and reference cell output current, the reference cell output current increases up to a first curved point as the applied voltage increases, the reference cell output current increases from the first curved point to a second curved point as the applied voltage increases, the reference cell output current increases from the second curved point as the applied voltage increases, and, in the voltage region between the first curved point and the second curved point, the amount of increase of the reference cell output current with respect to an amount of increase in the applied voltage becomes smaller than in other voltage regions, and the constant voltage is set to a voltage between the first curved point and the second curved point when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In an eighth aspect of the invention, there is provided the second or third aspect of the invention, wherein the reference cell is configured so as to have, for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, a current increase region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current increases along with an increase in the applied voltage, and current fine increase region which is a voltage region where an amount of increase of the reference cell output current with respect to an amount of increase of the applied voltage becomes smaller than the current increase region due to provision of the diffusion regulating layer, and the constant voltage is a voltage within the current fine increase region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In a ninth aspect of the invention, there is provided the second or third aspects of the invention, wherein the diffusion regulating layer is formed by alumina, and the constant voltage is set to 0.1V to 0.9V.

In a 10th aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the first to ninth aspects of the invention, wherein the engine control device judges that the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a predetermined air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current of the air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero.

In a 11th aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the first to 10th aspects of the invention, wherein the internal combustion engine comprises an exhaust purification catalyst which is provided in the exhaust passage at the upstream side, in the direction of exhaust flow, from the air-fuel ratio sensor and which can store oxygen, and the constant voltage is set to a voltage by which the reference cell output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a predetermined rich judged air-fuel ratio which is richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In a 12th aspect of the invention, there is provided the 11th aspect of the invention, wherein the engine control device can control the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the exhaust purification catalyst and, when the sensor output current of the air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero or less, the target air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the exhaust purification catalyst is set leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

In a 13th aspect of the invention, there is provided the 12th aspect of the invention, wherein the engine control device comprises: an oxygen storage amount increasing means for continuously or intermittently setting a target air-fuel ratio of exhaust gas flowing into the exhaust purification catalyst leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current of the air-fuel ratio sensor becomes zero or less, until the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst becomes a predetermined storage amount which is smaller than the maximum oxygen storage amount; and an oxygen storage amount decreasing means for continuously or intermittently setting the target air-fuel ratio richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst becomes the predetermined storage amount or more, so that the oxygen storage amount never reaches the maximum oxygen storage amount but decreases toward zero.

In a 14th aspect of the invention, there is provided the 13th aspect of the invention, wherein a difference between an average value of the target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in the time period when the target air-fuel ratio is continuously or intermittently set leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio by the oxygen storage amount increasing means, is larger than a difference between an average value of the target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in the time period when the target air-fuel ratio is continuously or intermittently set richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio by the oxygen storage amount decreasing means.

In a 15th aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of 11th or 14th aspects of the invention, wherein the control system of an internal combustion engine comprises an upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor which is provided in an engine exhaust passage at an upstream side, in the direction of exhaust flow, from the exhaust purification catalyst, and the engine control device controls the exhaust air-fuel ratio based on the output of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor so that the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the exhaust purification catalyst becomes a target air-fuel ratio.

In a 16th aspect of the invention, there is provided any one of the 15th to 15th aspects of the invention, wherein the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor is configured so that an applied voltage whereby a sensor output current becomes zero, changes in accordance with the exhaust air-fuel ratio and so that when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, if increasing the applied voltage at the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor, the sensor output current increases along with that, and the applied voltage at the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor is lower than the applied voltage of the air-fuel ratio sensor.

In a 17th aspect of the invention, there is provided 16th aspect of the invention, wherein when the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor detects the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the applied voltage at the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor is fixed to a constant voltage, and the constant voltage is set to a voltage whereby the sensor output current becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured chamber is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

Advantageous Effects of Invention

According to the present invention, there is provided a control system of an internal combustion engine which uses an air-fuel ratio sensor which can detect an absolute value of an air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas, even when the air-fuel ratio thereof is not a stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a view which schematically shows an internal combustion engine in which a control system of a first embodiment of the present invention is used.

FIG. 2 is a view which shows an output characteristic of an air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 3 is a schematic cross-sectional view of an air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 4 is a view which schematically shows an operation of an air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 5 is a view which shows the output characteristic of an air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 6 is a view which schematically shows an operation of a reference cell.

FIG. 7 is a view which shows the relationship between a sensor applied voltage and output current of a reference cell, at different exhaust air-fuel ratios.

FIG. 8 is a view which shows the relationship between the exhaust air-fuel ratio and output current of a reference cell, at different sensor applied voltages.

FIG. 9 is a view which shows the relationship between a sensor applied voltage and output current of a reference cell, at the air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 10 is a view which shows the relationship between an exhaust air-fuel ratio and output current of a reference cell, at the air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 11 is a view which shows the relationship between a sensor applied voltage and output current of a reference cell.

FIG. 12 is a view which shows the relationship between the exhaust air-fuel ratio and output current of a reference cell, at different sensor applied voltages, is a view similar to FIG. 8, and shows a broader range than FIG. 8.

FIG. 13 is a view which shows an example of a specific circuit which forms a voltage application device and a reference cell output current detection device.

FIG. 14 is a view which shows the relationship between the oxygen storage amount of an exhaust purification catalyst and a concentration of NOx or unburned gas in exhaust gas flowing out from an exhaust purification catalyst.

FIG. 15 is a time chart of the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst, etc.

FIG. 16 is a time chart of the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst, etc.

FIG. 17 is a functional block diagram of a control system.

FIG. 18 is a flow chart which shows a control routine of control for calculation of an air-fuel ratio shift amount.

FIG. 19 is a time chart of the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst, etc.

FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view, similar to FIG. 3, which schematically shows the configuration of an air-fuel ratio sensor of a third embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

Below, referring to the drawings, a control device of an internal combustion engine of the present invention will be explained in detail. Note that, in the following explanation, similar component elements are assigned the same reference numerals. FIG. 1 is a view which schematically shows an internal combustion engine in which a control device according to a first embodiment of the present invention is used.

<Explanation of Internal Combustion Engine as a Whole>

Referring to FIG. 1, 1 indicates an engine body, 2 a cylinder block, 3 a piston which reciprocates inside the cylinder block 2, 4 a cylinder head which is fastened to the cylinder block 2, 5 a combustion chamber which is formed between the piston 3 and the cylinder head 4, 6 an intake valve, 7 an intake port, 8 an exhaust valve, and 9 an exhaust port. The intake valve 6 opens and closes the intake port 7, while the exhaust valve 8 opens and closes the exhaust port 9.

As shown in FIG. 1, a spark plug 10 is arranged at a center part of an inside wall surface of the cylinder head 4, while a fuel injector 11 is arranged at a side part of the inner wall surface of the cylinder head 4. The spark plug 10 is configured to generate a spark in accordance with an ignition signal. Further, the fuel injector 11 injects a predetermined amount of fuel into the combustion chamber 5 in accordance with an injection signal. Note that, the fuel injector 11 may also be arranged so as to inject fuel into the intake port 7. Further, in the present embodiment, as the fuel, gasoline with a stoichiometric air-fuel ratio of 14.6 at an exhaust purification catalyst is used. However, the internal combustion engine of the present invention may also use another fuel.

The intake port 7 of each cylinder is connected to a surge tank 14 through a corresponding intake branch pipe 13, while the surge tank 14 is connected to an air cleaner 16 through an intake pipe 15. The intake port 7, intake branch pipe 13, surge tank 14, and intake pipe 15 form an intake passage. Further, inside the intake pipe 15, a throttle valve 18 which is driven by a throttle valve drive actuator 17 is arranged. The throttle valve 18 can be operated by the throttle valve drive actuator 17 to thereby change the aperture area of the intake passage.

On the other hand, the exhaust port 9 of each cylinder is connected to an exhaust manifold 19. The exhaust manifold 19 has a plurality of branch pipes which are connected to the exhaust ports 9 and a header at which these branch pipes are collected. The header of the exhaust manifold 19 is connected to an upstream side casing 21 which houses an upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. The upstream side casing 21 is connected through an exhaust pipe 22 to a downstream side casing 23 which houses a downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24. The exhaust port 9, exhaust manifold 19, upstream side casing 21, exhaust pipe 22, and downstream side casing 23 form an exhaust passage.

The electronic control unit (ECU) 31 is comprised of a digital computer which is provided with components which are connected together through a bidirectional bus 32 such as a RAM (random access memory) 33, ROM (read only memory) 34, CPU (microprocessor) 35, input port 36, and output port 37. In the intake pipe 15, an air flow meter 39 is arranged for detecting the flow rate of air flowing through the intake pipe 15. The output of this air flow meter 39 is input through a corresponding AD converter 38 to the input port 36. Further, at the header of the exhaust manifold 19, an upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 is arranged which detects the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing through the inside of the exhaust manifold 19 (that is, the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20). In addition, in the exhaust pipe 22, a downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is arranged which detects the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing through the inside of the exhaust pipe 22 (that is, the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 and flows into the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24). The outputs of these air-fuel ratio sensors 40 and 41 are also input through the corresponding AD converters 38 to the input port 36. Note that, the configurations of these air-fuel ratio sensors 40 and 41 will be explained later.

Further, an accelerator pedal 42 has a load sensor 43 connected to it which generates an output voltage which is proportional to the amount of depression of the accelerator pedal 42. The output voltage of the load sensor 43 is input to the input port 36 through a corresponding AD converter 38. The crank angle sensor 44 generates an output pulse every time, for example, a crankshaft rotates by 15 degrees. This output pulse is input to the input port 36. The CPU 35 calculates the engine speed from the output pulse of this crank angle sensor 44. On the other hand, the output port 37 is connected through corresponding drive circuits 45 to the spark plugs 10, fuel injectors 11, and throttle valve drive actuator 17. Note that the ECU 31 functions as an engine control system for controlling the internal combustion engine based on the outputs of various sensors, etc.

<Configuration of Air-Fuel Ratio Sensor>

Next, referring to FIG. 3, the configurations of air-fuel ratio sensors 40 and 41 in the present embodiment will be explained. FIG. 3 is a schematic cross-sectional view of air-fuel ratio sensors 40 and 41. As will be understood from FIG. 3, the air-fuel ratio sensors 40 and 41 in the present embodiment are double-cell type air-fuel ratio sensors each comprised of a solid electrolyte layer and a pair of electrodes forming a double cell.

As shown in FIG. 3, each of the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 comprises a measured gas chamber 51, a reference gas chamber 52, and two solid electrolyte layers 53, 54 which are arranged at the both sides of the measured gas chamber 51. The reference gas chamber 52 is provided at the opposite side of the measured gas chamber 51 across the second solid electrolyte layer 54. On the side surface of the first solid electrolyte layer 53 at the measured gas chamber 51 side, a gas chamber side electrode (third electrode) 55 is arranged, while on the side surface of the first solid electrolyte layer 53 at the exhaust gas side, an exhaust side electrode (fourth electrode) 56 is arranged. These first solid electrolyte layer 53, gas chamber side electrode 55, and exhaust side electrode 56 configure a pump cell 60.

On the other hand, on the side surface of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 at the measured gas chamber 51 side, a gas chamber side electrode (first electrode) 57 is arranged, while on the side surface of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 at the reference gas chamber 52 side, a reference side electrode (second electrode) 58 is arranged. These second solid electrolyte layer 54, gas chamber side electrode 57, and reference side electrode 58 configure a reference cell 61.

Between the two solid electrolyte layers 53 and 54, a diffusion regulating layer 63 is provided so as to surround the gas chamber side electrode 55 of the pump cell 60 and the gas chamber side electrode 57 of the reference cell 61. Therefore, the measured gas chamber 51 is defined by the first solid electrolyte layer 53, the second solid electrolyte layer 54, and the diffusion regulating layer 63. Into the measured gas chamber 51, exhaust gas flows through the diffusion regulating layer 63. Accordingly, the electrodes arranged in the measured gas chamber 51, that is, the gas chamber side electrode 55 of the pump cell 60 and the gas chamber side electrode 57 of the reference cell 61, are exposed through the diffusion regulating layer 63 to the exhaust gas. Note that, the diffusion regulating layer 63 does not necessarily have to be provided so that exhaust gas flowing into the measured gas chamber 51 can pass through the diffusion regulating layer 63. So long as the exhaust gas which reaches the gas chamber side electrode 57 of the reference cell 61 is exhaust gas which passes through the diffusion regulating layer, the diffusion regulating layer may be arranged in any manner.

Further, on the side surface of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 at the reference gas chamber 52 side, a heater part 64 is provided so as to surround the reference gas chamber 52. Therefore, the reference gas chamber 52 is defined by the second solid electrolyte layer 54 and the heater part 64. In this reference gas chamber 52, reference gas is introduced. In the present embodiment, the reference gas chamber 52 is opened to the atmosphere. Accordingly, inside the reference gas chamber 52, atmospheric air is introduced as reference gas.

Further, the heater part 64 is provided with a plurality of heaters 65. These heaters 65 can be used to control the temperature of the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41, in particular the temperature of the solid electrolyte layers 53, 54. The heater part 65 has a sufficient heat generating capacity for heating the solid electrolyte layers 53, 54 until activating. In addition, on the side surface of the first solid electrolyte layer 53 at the exhaust gas side, a protective layer 66 is provided. The protective layer 66 is formed from a porous material so that liquid in the exhaust gas, etc., is prevented from directly sticking to the exhaust side electrode 56 while the exhaust gas reaches the exhaust side electrode 56.

The solid electrolyte layers 53, 54 are formed by a sintered body of ZrO2 (zirconia), HfO2, ThO2, Bi2O3, or other oxygen ion conducting oxide in which CaO, MgO, Y2O3, Yb2O3, etc., is blended as a stabilizer. Further, the diffusion regulation layer 63 is formed by a porous sintered body of alumina, magnesia, silica, spinel, mullite, or other heat resistant inorganic substances. Furthermore, the electrodes 55-58 is formed by platinum or other precious metal with a high catalytic activity.

Across the gas chamber side electrode 57 and the reference side electrode 58 of the reference cell 61, sensor applied voltage Vr is applied by the reference cell voltage application device 70 which is mounted in the ECU 31. In addition, the ECU 31 is provided with a reference cell output current detection device 71 which detects the reference cell output current Ir flowing across these electrodes 57, 58 through the second solid electrolyte layer 54 when the reference cell voltage application device 70 applies the sensor applied voltage Vr.

Further, between the gas chamber side electrode 55 and the exhaust side electrode 56 of the pump cell 60, pump voltage Vp is applied by a pump voltage application device 72 which is mounted in the ECU 31. The pump voltage Vp applied by the pump voltage application device 72 is set in accordance with the reference cell output current Ir detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71. Specifically, the pump voltage Vp is set in accordance with the difference between the reference cell output current Ir detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71 and the preset target current (for example, zero). In addition, the ECU 31 is provided with a pump current detection device 73 which detects a pump current Ip which flows across these electrodes 55 and 56 through the first solid electrolyte layer 53 when the pump voltage application device 72 applies the pump voltage Vp.

Note that, if the pump voltage application device 72 changes the pump voltage Vp, the pump current Ip which flows across the electrodes 55, 56 changes. In other words, the pump voltage application device 72 can be said to control the pump current Ip. Therefore, the pump voltage application device 72 acts as a pump current control device which controls the pump current Ip. Note that, the pump current Ip, for example, changes by arranging a variable resistor in series with the pump voltage application device 72 and changing this variable resistor. Therefore, as the pump current control device, a variable resistor or other means other than the pump voltage application device 72 may be used.

<Operation of Air-Fuel Ratio Sensor>

Next, referring to FIG. 4, the basic concept of the operation of the thus configured air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 will be explained. FIG. 4 is a view which schematically shows the operation of the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41. At the time of use, each of the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 is arranged so that the protection layer 66 and the outer circumferential surface of the diffusion regulating layer 63 are exposed to the exhaust gas. Further, atmospheric air is introduced into the reference gas chamber 52 of the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41.

In the above-mentioned way, the solid electrolyte layers 53, 54 is formed by a sintered body of an oxygen ion conductive oxide. Therefore, it has the property of an electromotive force E being generated which makes oxygen ions move from the high concentration side surface side to the low concentration side surface side if a difference occurs in the oxygen concentration between the two side surfaces of the solid electrolyte layers 53, 54 in the state activated by the high temperature (oxygen cell characteristic).

Conversely, if a potential difference occurs between the two side surfaces, the solid electrolyte layers 53, 54 has the characteristic of trying to make the oxygen ions move so that a ratio of oxygen concentration occurs between the two side surfaces of the solid electrolyte layer in accordance with the potential difference (oxygen pump characteristic). Specifically, when a potential difference occurs across the two side surfaces, movement of oxygen ions is caused so that the oxygen concentration at the side surface which has a positive polarity becomes higher than the oxygen concentration at the side surface which has a negative polarity, by a ratio according to the potential difference.

Therefore, at the pump cell 60, if the pump voltage application device 72 applies the pump voltage Vp across the gas chamber side electrode 55 and the exhaust side electrode 56, movement of oxygen ions occurs corresponding to this. Along which such movement of oxygen ions, oxygen is pumped into or pumped out of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber 51.

On the other hand, the reference cell 61 in the present embodiment, by means of the mechanism mentioned below, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber 81 conforms to the rich judged air-fuel ratio (predetermined air-fuel ratio slightly richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio; for example, 14.55), the reference cell output current flowing across the electrodes 57 and 58 becomes zero. On the other hand, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas in the measured gas chamber 81 is richer than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current flowing across the electrodes 57 and 58 becomes a negative current with a magnitude which is proportional to the difference from the rich judged air-fuel ratio. Conversely, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 is leaner than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current which flows across the electrodes 57 and 58 becomes a positive current with a magnitude which is proportional to the difference from the rich judged air-fuel ratio.

When the exhaust air-fuel ratio around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 is leaner than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, as shown in FIG. 4(A), exhaust gas which has lean air-fuel ratio flows into measured gas chamber 51 through the diffusion regulating layer 63. If a lean air-fuel ratio exhaust gas containing such a large amount of oxygen flows in, by means of the mechanism mentioned below, a positive reference cell output current will flow across the electrodes 57 and 58 of the reference cell 61, proportional to the difference from the rich judged air-fuel ratio, and this reference cell output current will be detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71.

If the reference cell output current detection device 71 detects the reference cell output current, based on this current, the pump voltage application device 72 applies pump voltage to the electrodes 55 and 56 of the pump cell 60. In particular, if the reference cell output current detection device 71 detects a positive reference cell output current, pump voltage is applied using the exhaust side electrode 56 as the positive electrode and the gas chamber side electrode 855 as the negative electrode. By applying pump voltage to the electrodes 55, 56 of the pump cell 60 in this way, at the first solid electrolyte layer 53 of the pump cell 60, movement of oxygen ions will occur from the negative electrode to the positive electrode, that is, from the gas chamber side electrode 55 toward the exhaust side electrode 56. For this reason, the oxygen in the measured gas chamber 51 is pumped out into the exhaust gas around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41.

The flow rate of oxygen pumped out from inside each measured gas chamber 51 to the exhaust gas around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 is proportional to the pump voltage. Further, the pump voltage is proportional to the magnitude of the positive reference cell output current detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71. Therefore, the larger the lean degree of the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51, that is, the higher the concentration of oxygen in the measured gas chamber 51, the greater the flow rate of oxygen pumped out from the inside of the measured gas chamber 51 into the exhaust gas around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41. As a result, the flow rate of oxygen flowing through the diffusion regulating layer 63 into the measured gas chamber 51 and the flow rate of oxygen pumped out by the pump cell 60 basically conform to each other. Therefore, the air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51, is basically maintained substantially at the rich judged air-fuel ratio.

The flow rate of oxygen pumped by the pump cell 60 equals the flow rate of oxygen ions which move through the inside of the first solid electrolyte layer 53 of the pump cell 60. Further, the flow rate of the oxygen ions is equal to the current which flows across the electrodes 55, 56 of the pump cell 60. Accordingly, by detecting the pump current flowing across the electrodes 55, 56, as an output current of the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 (hereinafter, referred to as “sensor output current”), by the pump current detection device 73, it is possible to detect the flow rate of oxygen flowing through the diffusion regulating layer 63 into the measured gas chamber 51, and thus a lean air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas around the measured gas chamber 51.

On the other hand, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 is richer than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, as shown in FIG. 4(B), exhaust gas of rich air-fuel ratio will flow into the measured gas chamber 51 through the diffusion regulating layer 63. If the rich air-fuel ratio exhaust gas containing a large amount of unburned gas (HC or CO, etc.) flows in like this way, across the electrodes 57 and 58 of the reference cell 61, a negative reference cell output current will flow proportional to the difference from the rich judged air-fuel ratio. This reference cell output current is detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71.

If the reference cell output current detection device 71 detects the reference cell output current, based on this current, a pump voltage is applied across the electrodes 55 and 56 of the pump cell 60 by the pump voltage application device 72, by the mechanism mentioned below. In particular, if the reference cell output current detection device 71 detects a negative reference cell output current, pump voltage is applied using the gas chamber side electrode 55 as the positive electrode and the exhaust side electrode 56 as the negative electrode. By applying the pump voltage in this way, in the first solid electrolyte layer 53 of the pump cell 60, movement of oxygen ions occurs from the negative electrode to the positive electrode, that is, from the exhaust side electrode 56 toward the gas chamber side electrode 55. For this reason, the oxygen in the exhaust gas around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 is pumped into the measured gas chamber 51.

The flow rate of oxygen pumped from the exhaust gas around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 into each measured gas chamber 51 is proportional to the pump voltage. Further, the pump voltage is proportional to the magnitude of the negative reference cell output current detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71. Therefore, the larger the rich degree of the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51, that is, the higher the concentration of unburned gas in the measured gas chamber 51, the greater the flow rate of oxygen pumped into the measured gas chamber 51 from the exhaust gas around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41. As a result, the flow rate of unburned gas flowing through the diffusion regulating layer 63 into the measured gas chamber 51 and the flow rate of oxygen pumped in by the pump cell 60 become a chemical equivalent ratio and, accordingly, the air-fuel ratio in of the measured gas chamber 51 is basically maintained at the rich judged air-fuel ratio.

The flow rate of oxygen pumped in by the pump cell 60 is equal to the flow rate of oxygen ions which move through the inside of the first solid electrolyte layer 53 in the pump cell 60. Further, this flow rate of oxygen ions is equal to the current which flows across the electrodes 55, 56 of the pump cell 60. Accordingly, by detecting the pump current flowing between the electrodes 55 and 56, as a sensor output current, by the pump current detection device 73, it is possible to detect the flow rate of unburned gas flowing through the diffusion regulating layer 63 into the measured gas chamber 51 and thus the rich air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas around the measured gas chamber 51.

Further, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio around the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 is the rich judged air-fuel ratio, as shown in FIG. 4(C), exhaust gas of the rich judged air-fuel ratio flows into the measured gas chamber 51 through the diffusion regulating layer 63. If exhaust gas of the rich judged air-fuel ratio flows in this way, the reference cell output current flowing across the electrodes 57, 58 of the reference cell 61 becomes zero by the mechanism mentioned below, and the reference cell output current is detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71.

If the reference cell output current detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71 is zero, along with this, the pump voltage applied by the pump voltage application device 72 is also zero. Therefore, in the first solid electrolyte layer 53 of the pump cell 60, no movement of oxygen ions occurs, and accordingly the inside of the measured gas chamber 51 is basically held substantially at the rich judged air-fuel ratio. Further, no movement of oxygen ions occurs in the first solid electrolyte layer 53 of the pump cell 60, and therefore the pump current (i.e., sensor output current) detected by the pump current detection device 73 also becomes zero. Therefore, when the pump current detected by the pump current detection device 73 is zero, it is learned that the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas around the measured gas chamber 51 is equal to the rich judged air-fuel ratio.

The thus configured air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 have the output characteristic shown in FIG. 5. That is, in the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41, the larger the exhaust air-fuel ratio becomes (that is, the leaner it becomes), the larger the pump current (sensor output current) Ip becomes. In addition, in the present embodiment, the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 are configured so that the pump current (sensor output current) Ip becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio conforms to the rich judged air-fuel ratio.

<Operation of Reference Cell>

As explained above, in the reference cell 61, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 is a rich judged air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current flowing across the electrodes 57 and 58 becomes zero, while when the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 becomes an air-fuel ratio which is different from the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current changes in accordance with the exhaust air-fuel ratio. Below, referring to FIG. 6, the basic concept of the operation of the reference cell 61 will be explained. FIG. 6 is a view which schematically shows the operation of the reference cell 61. At the time of use, as explained above, exhaust gas is introduced into the measured gas chamber 51 through a diffusion regulating layer 63, and atmospheric air is introduced into the reference gas chamber 52. Further, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 6, at the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41, a constant sensor applied voltage Vr is applied across these electrodes 57 and 58 so that the reference side electrode 58 becomes a positive polarity and the gas chamber side electrode 57 becomes a negative polarity.

When the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 is leaner than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the ratio of concentration of oxygen between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 does not become that large. Therefore, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr to a suitable value, between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54, the actual ratio of concentration of oxygen becomes smaller than the ratio of concentration of oxygen which corresponds to the sensor applied voltage Vr. For this reason, as shown in FIG. 6(A), movement of oxygen ions occurs from the gas chamber side electrode 57 to the reference side electrode 58 so that the ratio of concentration of oxygen between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 becomes larger toward the ratio of concentration of oxygen which corresponds to the sensor applied voltage Vr. As a result, current flows from the positive electrode of the reference cell voltage application device 70 which applies the sensor applied voltage Vr, through the reference side electrode 58, second solid electrolyte layer 54, and gas chamber side electrode 57, to the negative electrode of the reference cell voltage application device 70.

The magnitude of the current (reference cell output current) Ir is proportional to the flow rate of oxygen flowing from the exhaust gas through the diffusion regulating layer 63 to the measured gas chamber 51, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr to a suitable value. Therefore, by detecting the magnitude of this current Ir by the reference cell output current detection device 71, the concentration of oxygen in the measured gas chamber 51 can be learned and, in turn, the air-fuel ratio at the lean region can be learned.

On the other hand, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 is richer than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the unburned gas flows from the exhaust gas through the diffusion regulating layer 63 into the measured gas chamber 51, and therefore even if oxygen is present on the gas chamber side electrode 57, it is removed by reaction with the unburned gas. Therefore, in the measured gas chamber 51, the concentration of oxygen becomes extremely low and, as a result, the ratio of the concentration of oxygen at the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 becomes large. For this reason, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr to a suitable value, between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54, the actual ratio of concentration of oxygen becomes larger compared with the ratio of concentration of oxygen corresponding to the sensor applied voltage Vr. Therefore, as shown in FIG. 6(B), movement of oxygen ions occurs from the reference side electrode 58 toward the gas chamber side electrode 57 so that the ratio of concentration of oxygen between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 becomes smaller toward the ratio of concentration of oxygen which corresponds to the sensor applied voltage Vr. As a result, current flows from the reference side electrode 58, through the reference cell voltage application device 70 which applies the sensor applied voltage Vr, to the gas chamber side electrode 57.

The magnitude of the current (reference cell output current) Ir which flows at this time, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr to a suitable value, is determined by the flow rate of oxygen ions which moves through the second solid electrolyte layer 54 from the reference side electrode 58 to the gas chamber side electrode 57. The oxygen ions react (burn) on the gas chamber side electrode 57 with the inflowing unburned gas, which flows from the exhaust gas through the diffusion regulating layer 63 and are diffused into the measured gas chamber 51. Accordingly, the flow rate of movement of oxygen ions corresponds to the concentration of unburned gas in the exhaust gas which flows into the measured gas chamber 51. Therefore, by detecting the magnitude of this current Ir by the reference cell output current detection device 71, it is possible to learn the concentration of unburned gas in the measured gas chamber 51 and in turn possible to learn the air-fuel ratio in the rich region.

Further, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 conforms to the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the amounts of oxygen and unburned gas in the measured gas chamber 51 become a chemical equivalent ratio. Therefore, the catalytic action of the gas chamber side electrode 57 causes the oxygen and unburned gas to completely burn, and no fluctuation occurs in the concentrations of oxygen and unburned gas in the measured gas chamber 51. As a result, the ratio of concentration of oxygen between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54, does not fluctuate, but is maintained as the ratio of concentration of oxygen which corresponds to the sensor applied voltage Vr. Therefore, as shown in FIG. 6(C), no movement of oxygen ions occurs due to the oxygen pump characteristic, and as a result, no current is generated which flows through the circuit.

<Microscopic Characteristics Near Stoichiometric Air-Fuel Ratio of Reference Cell>

In the meantime, the inventors of the present invention, etc., engaged in in-depth research whereupon they discovered that if viewing the relationship between the sensor applied voltage Vr and the reference cell output current Ir or the relationship between the exhaust air-fuel ratio and the reference cell output current Ir, microscopically near the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, the result became as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8.

FIG. 7 is a view which shows the relationship between the sensor applied voltage Vr in the reference cell and the reference cell output current Ir. As will be understood from FIG. 7, the reference cell has a limit current region where even if increasing the sensor applied voltage Vr, the reference cell output current Ir does not increase much at all. However, in this limit current region as well, when making the exhaust air-fuel ratio constant, as the sensor applied voltage Vr increases, the reference cell output current Ir also increases—though very slightly. For example, if taking as an example the case where the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio (14.6), when the sensor applied voltage Vr is 0.45V or so, the reference cell output current Ir becomes 0. As opposed to this, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr lower than 0.45V by a certain extent (for example, 0.2V), the reference cell output current Ir becomes a value lower than 0. On the other hand, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr higher than 0.45V by a certain extent (for example, 0.7V), the reference cell output current Ir becomes a value higher than 0.

FIG. 8 is a view which shows the relationship between the exhaust air-fuel ratio and the reference cell output current Ir. From FIG. 8, it is learned that in the region near the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current Ir for the same exhaust air-fuel ratio differs slightly for each sensor applied voltage Vr. For example, in the illustrated example, in the case where the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, when the sensor applied voltage Vr is set to 0.45V, the reference cell output current Ir becomes 0. Further, if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr greater than 0.45V, the reference cell output current Ir also becomes larger than 0, while if setting the sensor applied voltage Vr smaller than 0.45V, the reference cell output current Ir becomes smaller than 0.

In addition, from FIG. 8, it will be understood that for each sensor applied voltage Vr, the exhaust air-fuel ratio when the reference cell output current Ir becomes 0 (below, referred to as “exhaust air-fuel ratio at time of zero current”) differs. In the illustrated example, if the sensor applied voltage Vr is 0.45V, the reference cell output current Ir becomes 0 when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. As opposed to this, when the sensor applied voltage Vr is larger than 0.45V, the reference cell output current Ir becomes 0 when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. The larger the sensor applied voltage Vr becomes, the smaller the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes. Conversely, when the sensor applied voltage Vr is smaller than 0.45V, the reference cell output current Ir becomes 0 when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. The smaller the sensor applied voltage Vr becomes, the larger the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current. That is, it is possible to change the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current by changing the sensor applied voltage Vr.

In this regard, as explained using FIG. 2, the rate of change of output current varies among individual specimens of the air-fuel ratio sensor, or variations occur in the same air-fuel ratio sensor due to aging, etc. Further, such a tendency also applies to the reference cell 61.

Therefore, in the reference cell 61, the ratio of the amount of increase of the reference cell output current with respect to the amount of increase of the exhaust air-fuel ratio (below, called the “rate of change of reference cell output current”) will not necessarily become the same even after going through similar production processes. Variations will occur between specimens even for the same type of air-fuel ratio sensor. In addition, even in the same air-fuel ratio sensor, the rate of change of reference cell output current changes due to aging, etc.

However, as will be understood from FIG. 2, even if variations occur between individual specimens of an air-fuel ratio sensor or variations occur in the same air-fuel ratio sensor due to aging, etc., the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current (in the example of FIG. 2, the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio) will not change much at all. That is, when the reference cell output current Ir is a value other than zero, the absolute value of the exhaust air-fuel ratio at that time will not necessarily be constant. However, when the reference cell output current Ir becomes zero, the absolute value of the exhaust air-fuel ratio at that time (in the example of FIG. 17, the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio) is constant.

Further, as explained using FIG. 8, in the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41, it is possible to change the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current by changing the sensor applied voltage Vr. Further, if the reference cell output current detected by the reference cell output current detection device 71 is zero, the pump voltage applied by the pump voltage application device 72 is also made zero, and the pump current (sensor output current) Ip also becomes zero. Therefore, according to the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41, by changing the sensor applied voltage Vr change, it is possible to accurately detect the absolute value of the exhaust air-fuel ratio other than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. In particular, when changing the sensor applied voltage Vr within a later explained “specific voltage region”, it is possible to adjust the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current only slightly with respect to the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio (14.6) (for example, within a range of ±1% (about 14.45 to about 14.75)). Therefore, by suitably setting the sensor applied voltage Vr, it becomes possible to accurately detect the absolute value of an air-fuel ratio which slightly differs from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

<Explanation of Specific Voltage Region>

As explained above, by changing the sensor applied voltage Vr, it is possible to change the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current. However, if changing the sensor applied voltage Vr so as to be larger than a certain upper limit voltage or smaller than a certain lower limit voltage, the amount of change in the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current, with respect to the amount of change in the sensor applied voltage Vr, becomes larger. Therefore, in these voltage regions, if the sensor applied voltage Vr slightly shifts, the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current greatly changes. Therefore, in this voltage region, to accurately detect the absolute value of the exhaust air-fuel ratio, it becomes necessary to precisely control the sensor applied voltage Vr. This is not that practical. Therefore, from the viewpoint of accurately detecting the absolute value of the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the sensor applied voltage Vr has to be a value within a “specific voltage region” between a certain upper limit voltage and a certain lower limit voltage.

This specific voltage region can be defined by various methods. Below, FIG. 9 to FIG. 12 will be used to explain an example of several definitions.

First, a first example will be explained. As shown by the voltage-current graph of FIG. 9(A), the reference cell 61 have a current increase region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current Ir increases along with an increase of the sensor applied voltage Vr for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, and a current fine increase region which is a voltage region where the amount of increase of the reference cell output current Ir with respect the amount of increase of the sensor applied voltage Vr becomes smaller than that in the current increase region, due to the provision of the diffusion regulating layer (in FIG. 9(A), current increase region and current fine increase region are shown only for when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio). In a first example, the current fine increase region of when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is defined as the “specific voltage region”.

Next, a second example will be explained. As shown by the voltage-current graph of FIG. 9(B), the reference cell 61 has a limit current region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current Ir becomes a limit current for each exhaust air-fuel ratio (in FIG. 9(B), limit current region is shown only for when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio). In a second example, the limit current region when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is defined as the “specific voltage region”.

Next, a third example will be explained. As shown by the voltage-current graph of FIG. 9(C), the air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 have a proportional region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current Ir increases in proportion to an increase in the applied voltage for each exhaust air-fuel ratio, a moisture breakdown region which is a voltage region where the reference cell output current Ir changes in accordance with a change in the applied voltage due to breakdown of water and the solid electrolyte layer 51, and an intermediate region which is a voltage region between these proportional region and moisture breakdown region (in FIG. 9(C), proportional region, moisture breakdown region, and intermediate region shown only for when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio). In a third example, the intermediate region where the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is defined as a “specific voltage region”.

Next, a fourth example will be explained. As shown in FIG. 8, the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current changes in accordance with the sensor applied voltage Vr. The higher the sensor applied voltage Vr, the lower the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current. As shown in FIG. 10, in the reference cell 61 of the present embodiment, when the sensor applied voltage Vr is set to the upper limit voltage value, the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes an air-fuel ratio which is for example 0.5 to 2% or so (preferably 1% or so) lower than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFst. On the other hand, when the sensor applied voltage Vr is set to the lower limit voltage value, the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes an air-fuel ratio which is for example 0.5 to 2% or so (preferably 1% or so) higher than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFst. In a fourth example, the voltage region between the upper limit voltage value (voltage value where exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes an air-fuel ratio lower by for example 1% from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFst) and the lower limit voltage value (voltage value where exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes an air-fuel ratio higher by for example 1% from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFst) is defined as the “specific voltage region”.

Next, referring to FIG. 11, a fifth example will be explained. FIG. 11 shows a change in current with respect to the voltage. As shown in FIG. 11, in the reference cell 61 of the present embodiment, at each exhaust air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current Ir increases until the first curved point B1 as the sensor applied voltage Vr increases from the negative state, the reference cell output current Ir increases until the second curved point B2 as the sensor applied voltage Vr increases from the first curved point B1, and the reference cell output current Ir increases as the sensor applied voltage Vr increases from the second curved point. In the voltage region between the first curved point B1 and second curved point B2, the amount of increase of the reference cell output current Ir with respect to the amount of increase of the sensor applied voltage Vr is smaller than in the other voltage regions. In the fifth example, the voltage region between the first curved point and second curved point when the first exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is defined as the “specific voltage region”.

Next, a sixth example will be explained. In the sixth example, the upper limit voltage value and the lower limit voltage value of the “specific voltage region” are specified by specific numerical values. Specifically, the “specific voltage region” is 0.05V to 0.95V, preferably 0.1V to 0.9V, more preferably 0.15V to 0.8V.

FIG. 12 is a view, similar to FIG. 8, which shows the relationship between the exhaust air-fuel ratio and reference cell output current Ir, at the different sensor applied voltages Vr. FIG. 8 shows the relationship only near the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in a microscopic manner, while FIG. 12 shows the relationship for a broader range of air-fuel ratio in a macroscopic manner.

As will be understood from FIG. 12, if the exhaust air-fuel ratio becomes lower to a certain constant exhaust air-fuel ratio or less, even if the exhaust air-fuel ratio changes, the reference cell output current Ir will no longer change much at all. This constant exhaust air-fuel ratio changes in accordance with the sensor applied voltage Vr and becomes higher the higher the sensor applied voltage Vr. For this reason, if increasing the sensor applied voltage Vr to a certain specific value (maximum voltage) or more, as shown in the figure by the one-dot chain line, no matter what the value of the exhaust air-fuel ratio is, the reference cell output current Ir will no longer become 0.

On the other hand, if the exhaust air-fuel ratio becomes higher to a certain constant exhaust air-fuel ratio or more, even if the exhaust air-fuel ratio changes, the reference cell output current Ir will no longer change much at all. This constant exhaust air-fuel ratio also changes in accordance with the sensor applied voltage Vr and becomes lower the lower the sensor applied voltage Vr. For this reason, if decreasing the sensor applied voltage Vr to a certain specific value (minimum voltage) or less, as shown in the figure by the two-dot chain line, no matter what value the exhaust air-fuel ratio is, the reference cell output current Ir will no longer become 0 (for example, when the sensor applied voltage Vr is set to 0V, regardless of the exhaust air-fuel ratio, the reference cell output current Ir will not become 0).

Therefore, if the sensor applied voltage Vr is a voltage between the maximum voltage and the minimum voltage, there is an exhaust air-fuel ratio where the reference cell output current becomes zero. Conversely, if the sensor applied voltage Vr is a voltage higher than the maximum voltage or a voltage lower than the minimum voltage, there is no exhaust air-fuel ratio where the reference cell output current will become zero. Therefore, the sensor applied voltage Vr at least has to be a voltage where the reference cell output current becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is any air-fuel ratio, that is, a voltage between the maximum voltage and the minimum voltage. The above-mentioned “specific voltage region” is the voltage region between the maximum voltage and the minimum voltage.

<Sensor Applied Voltage at Individual Air-Fuel Ratio Sensors>

In the present embodiment, considering the above-mentioned microscopic characteristics, when detecting the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas by the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40, the sensor applied voltage Vrup at the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 is fixed to a constant voltage (for example, 0.45V) where the reference cell output current (and, sensor output current) becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio (in the present embodiment, 14.6). In other words, in the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40, the sensor applied voltage Vrup is set so that the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio.

On the other hand, when detecting the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas by the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41, the sensor applied voltage Vr at the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is fixed to a constant voltage (for example, 0.7V) where the reference cell output current (and, sensor output current) becomes zero when the exhaust air-fuel ratio is a predetermined rich judged air-fuel ratio slightly richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio (for example, 14.55). In other words, in the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41, the sensor applied voltage Vrdwn is set so that exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes a rich judged air-fuel ratio which is slightly richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. Accordingly, in the present embodiment, the sensor applied voltage Vrdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is higher voltage than the sensor applied voltage Vrup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40.

Therefore, the ECU 31 connected to the two air-fuel ratio sensors 40, 41 judges that the exhaust air-fuel ratio around the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 becomes zero. On the other hand, the ECU 31 judges that the exhaust air-fuel ratio around the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is the lean judged air-fuel ratio, that is, is a predetermined air-fuel ratio leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, when the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes zero.

Note that, as the time of detecting the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas by the air-fuel ratio sensor 40, for example, when a fuel cut control explained below is not performed, or when the air-fuel ratio detected by the air-fuel ratio sensor is not high value of 18 or higher, may be mentioned.

<Circuits of Voltage Application Device and Current Detection Device>

FIG. 13 shows an example of the specific circuits which form the reference cell voltage application device 70 and reference cell current detection device 71. In the illustrated example, the electromotive force E which occurs due to the oxygen cell characteristic is expressed as “E”, the internal resistance of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 is expressed as “Ri”, and the difference of electrical potential across the two electrodes 57, 58 is expressed as “Vs”.

As will be understood from FIG. 13, the reference cell voltage application device 70 basically performs negative feedback control so that the electromotive force E which occurs due to the oxygen cell characteristic matches the sensor applied voltage Vr. In other words, the reference cell voltage application device 70 performs negative feedback control so that even when a change in the oxygen concentration ratio between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrode layer 54 causes the potential difference Vs between the two electrodes 57 and 58 to change, this potential difference Vs becomes the sensor applied voltage Vr.

Therefore, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio in the measured gas chamber 51 becomes the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and no change occurs in the oxygen concentration ratio between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54, the oxygen concentration ratio between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 becomes the oxygen concentration ratio corresponding to the sensor applied voltage Vr. In this case, the electromotive force E conforms to the sensor applied voltage Vr, the potential difference Vs between the two electrodes 57 and 58 also becomes the sensor applied voltage Vr, and, as a result, the current Ir does not flow.

On the other hand, when the exhaust air-fuel ratio becomes an air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and a change occurs in the oxygen concentration ratio between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54, the oxygen concentration ratio between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 does not become an oxygen concentration ratio corresponding to the sensor applied voltage Vr. In this case, the electromotive force E becomes a value different from the sensor applied voltage Vr. Therefore, due to negative feedback control, a potential difference Vs is applied between the two electrodes 57 and 58 so that oxygen ions move between the two side surfaces of the second solid electrolyte layer 54 so that the electromotive force E conforms to the sensor applied voltage Vr. Further, current Ir flows along with movement of oxygen ions at this time. As a result, the electromotive force E converges to the sensor applied voltage Vr. If the electromotive force E converges to the sensor applied voltage Vr, finally the potential difference Vs also converges to the sensor applied voltage Vr.

Therefore, the reference cell voltage application device 70 can be said to substantially apply the sensor applied voltage Vr between the two electrodes 57 and 58. Note that, the electrical circuit of the reference cell voltage application device 70 does not have to be one such as shown in FIG. 13. The circuit may be any form of device so long as able to substantially apply the sensor applied voltage Vr across the two electrodes 57, 58.

Further, the reference cell current detection device 71 does not actually detect the current. It detects the voltage E0 to calculate the current from this voltage E0. In this regard, E0 is expressed as in the following equation (1).

E0=Vr+V0+IrR  (1)

wherein, V0 is the offset voltage (voltage applied so that E0 does not become a negative value, for example, 3V), while R is the value of the resistance shown in FIG. 13.

In equation (1), the sensor applied voltage Vr, offset voltage V0, and resistance value R are constant, and therefore the voltage E0 changes in accordance with the current Ir. For this reason, if detecting the voltage E0, it is possible to calculate the current Ir from that voltage E0.

Therefore, the reference cell current detection device 71 can be said to substantially detect the current Ir which flows across the two electrodes 57, 58. Note that, the electrical circuit of the reference cell current detection device 71 does not have to be one such as shown in FIG. 13. If possible to detect the current Ir flowing across the two electrodes 57, 58, any form of device may be used.

<Explanation of Exhaust Purification Catalyst>

Next, the exhaust purification catalysts 20, 24 which are used in the present embodiment will be explained. The upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 and the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 both have similar configurations. Below, only the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 will be explained, but the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 may also have a similar configuration and action.

The upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a three-way catalyst which has an oxygen storage ability. Specifically, the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is comprised of a carrier made of ceramic on which a precious metal which has a catalytic action (for example, platinum (Pt)) and a substance which has an oxygen storage ability (for example, ceria (CeO2)) are carried. If the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 reaches a predetermined activation temperature, it exhibits an oxygen storage ability in addition to the catalytic action of simultaneously removing the unburned gas (HC, CO, etc.) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

According to the oxygen storage ability of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 stores the oxygen in the exhaust gas, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio (lean air-fuel ratio). On the other hand, the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 releases the oxygen which is stored in the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 when the air-fuel ratio of the inflowing exhaust gas is richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio (rich air-fuel ratio). Note that, the “air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas” means the ratio of the mass of the fuel to the mass of the air which are fed up to when the exhaust gas is produced. Usually, it means the ratio of the mass of the fuel to the mass of the air which are fed into the combustion chamber 5 when that exhaust gas is produced.

The upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 has a catalytic action and an oxygen storage ability, and therefore has the action of removing NOx and unburned gas in accordance with the oxygen storage amount. FIG. 14 shows the relationship between the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 and the concentration of NOx and unburned gas (HC, CO, etc.) which flow out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. FIG. 14(A) shows the relationship between the oxygen storage amount and the concentration of NOx in the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a lean air-fuel ratio. On the other hand, FIG. 14(B) shows the relationship between the oxygen storage amount and the concentration of unburned gas in the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a rich air-fuel ratio.

As will be understood from FIG. 14(A), when the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is small, there is an extra margin up to the maximum oxygen storage amount. For this reason, even if the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a lean air-fuel ratio (that is, this exhaust gas includes NOx and oxygen), the oxygen in the exhaust gas is stored in the exhaust purification catalyst. Along with this, NOx is also reduced and purified. As a result, the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 does not contain almost any NOx.

However, if the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 increases, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a lean air-fuel ratio, it becomes difficult for the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 to store the oxygen in the exhaust gas. Along with this, the NOx in the exhaust gas also becomes harder to be reduced and purified. For this reason, as will be understood from FIG. 14(A), if the oxygen storage amount increases over a certain upper limit storage amount Cuplim, the concentration of NOx in the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 rapidly rises.

On the other hand, when the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is large, if the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is the rich air-fuel ratio (that is, this exhaust gas contains unburned gas, such as HC or CO), oxygen stored in the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is released. For this reason, the unburned gas in the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is oxidized and purified. As a result, as will be understood from FIG. 14(B), the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 does not contain almost any unburned gas.

However, if the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes smaller, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is the rich air-fuel ratio, the oxygen released from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes smaller. Along with this, the unburned gas in the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 also becomes harder to be oxidized and purified. For this reason, as will be understood from FIG. 14(B), if the oxygen storage amount decreases beyond a certain lower limit storage amount Clowlim, the concentration of unburned gas in the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 rapidly rises.

In this way, according to the exhaust purification catalysts 20, 24 used in the present embodiment, the characteristic of purification of NOx and unburned gas in the exhaust gas changes in accordance with the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the exhaust purification catalysts 20, 24 and oxygen storage amount. Note that, as long as the exhaust purification catalysts 20, 24 has a catalytic function and oxygen storage ability, the exhaust purification catalysts 20, 24 may also be catalysts which are different from three-way catalysts.

<Summary of Control of Air-Fuel Ratio>

Next, a summary of the air-fuel ratio control in a control system of an internal combustion engine of the present invention will be explained. In the present embodiment, based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40, feedback control is performed so that the sensor output current (that is, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20) Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 becomes a value corresponding to the target air-fuel ratio.

The target air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is set based on the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41. Specifically, the target air-fuel ratio is set to the lean set air-fuel ratio when the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes zero or less and is maintained at that air-fuel ratio. The fact that the sensor output current Ipdwn becomes zero or less means that the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes a predetermined rich judged air-fuel ratio (for example, 14.55), which is slightly richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, or less. Further, the lean set air-fuel ratio is a predetermined air-fuel ratio leaner than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio by a certain extent. For example, it is 14.65 to 20, preferably 14.68 to 18, more preferably 14.7 to 16 or so.

If the target air-fuel ratio is changed to the lean set air-fuel ratio, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is estimated. The oxygen storage amount OSAsc is estimated based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40, and the estimated value of the amount of intake air to the combustion chamber 5, which is calculated based on the air flow meter 39, etc., or the amount of fuel injection from the fuel injector 11, etc. Further, if the estimated value of the oxygen storage amount OSAsc becomes a predetermined judged reference storage amount Cref or more, the target air-fuel ratio which was the lean set air-fuel ratio up to then is changed to a weak rich set air-fuel ratio and is maintained at that air-fuel ratio. The weak rich set air-fuel ratio is a predetermined air-fuel ratio slightly richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. For example, it is 13.5 to 14.58, preferably 14 to 14.57, more preferably 14.3 to 14.55 or so. After that, when the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 again becomes zero or less, the target air-fuel ratio is again set to the lean set air-fuel ratio, and then a similar operation is repeated.

In this way, in the present embodiment, the target air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is alternately set to the lean set air-fuel ratio and the weak rich set air-fuel ratio. In particular, in the present embodiment, the difference between the lean set air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is larger than the difference between the weak rich set air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. Therefore, in the present embodiment, the target air-fuel ratio is alternately set to lean set air-fuel ratio for a short period of time and weak rich set air-fuel ratio for a long period of time.

<Explanation of Control Using Time Chart>

Referring to FIG. 15, the above-mentioned such operation will be explained in detail. FIG. 15 is a time chart of the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41, the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 and NOx concentration in the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, in the case of performing air-fuel ratio control in a control system of an internal combustion engine of the present invention.

Note that, as explained above, the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, becomes a negative value when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas is a rich air-fuel ratio, and becomes a positive value when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas is a lean air-fuel ratio. Further, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a rich air-fuel ratio or lean air-fuel ratio, the greater the difference from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, the larger the absolute value of the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40.

On the other hand, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes zero when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is the rich judged air-fuel ratio (slightly richer than stoichiometric air-fuel ratio), becomes a negative value when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas is richer than the rich judged air-fuel ratio and becomes a positive value when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas is leaner than the rich judged air-fuel ratio. Further, when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is richer or leaner than the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the larger the difference from the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the larger the absolute value of the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41.

Further, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is a shift amount relating to the target air-fuel ratio. When the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is 0, the target air-fuel ratio is the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, when the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is a positive value, the target air-fuel ratio becomes a lean air-fuel ratio, and when the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is a negative value, the target air-fuel ratio becomes a rich air-fuel ratio.

In the illustrated example, in the state before the time t1, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich. The weak rich set shift amount AFCrich is a value corresponding to the weak rich set air-fuel ratio and a value smaller than 0. Therefore, the target air-fuel ratio is set to a rich air-fuel ratio. Along with this, the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 becomes a negative value. The exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 contains unburned gas, and therefore the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 gradually decreases. However, the unburned gas contained in the exhaust gas is purified at the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, and therefore the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes substantially the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. For this reason, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor becomes a positive value (corresponding to stoichiometric air-fuel ratio). At this time, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes a rich air-fuel ratio, and therefore the amount of NOx exhausted from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is suppressed.

If the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 gradually decreases, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc decreases to less than the lower limit storage amount (see Clowlim of FIG. 14) at the time t1. If the oxygen storage amount OSAsc decreases to less than the lower limit storage amount, part of the unburned gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 flows out without being purified at the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. For this reason, after the time t1, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 gradually falls along with the decrease in the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. At this time as well, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes a rich air-fuel ratio, and therefore the amount of NOx exhausted from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is suppressed.

Then, at the time t2, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 reaches zero corresponding to the rich judged air-fuel ratio. In the present embodiment, if the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 reaches zero, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is switched to the lean set shift amount AFClean so as to suppress the decrease of the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. The lean set shift amount AFClean is a value corresponding to the lean set air-fuel ratio and is a value larger than 0. Therefore, the target air-fuel ratio is set to a lean air-fuel ratio.

Note that, in the present embodiment, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is switched after the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 reaches zero, that is, after the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 reaches the rich judged air-fuel ratio. This is because even if the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is sufficient, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 sometimes deviates slightly from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. That is, if it is judged that the oxygen storage amount has decreased to less than the lower limit storage amount when the sensor output current Ipdwn deviates slightly from the value corresponding to the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, even if there is actually a sufficient oxygen storage amount, there is a possibility that it is judged that the oxygen storage amount decreases to lower than the lower limit storage amount. Therefore, in the present embodiment, it is judged the oxygen storage amount decreases lower than the lower limit storage amount, only when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 reaches the rich judged air-fuel ratio. Conversely speaking, the rich judged air-fuel ratio is set to an air-fuel ratio which the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 does not reach much at all when the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is sufficient.

Even if, at the time t2, the target air-fuel ratio is switched to the lean air-fuel ratio, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 does not immediately become the lean air-fuel ratio, and a certain extent of delay arises. As a result, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 changes from the rich air-fuel ratio to the lean air-fuel ratio at the time t3. Note that, during the times t2 to t3, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a rich air-fuel ratio, and therefore this exhaust gas contains unburned gas. However, the amount of discharge of NOx from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is suppressed.

At the time t3, if the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 changes to the lean air-fuel ratio, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 increases. Further, along with this, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 changes to the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, and the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 also converges to a positive value corresponding to the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. Although the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is a lean air-fuel ratio at this time, the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 has sufficient leeway in the oxygen storage ability, and therefore the oxygen in the inflowing exhaust gas is stored in the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 and the NOx is reduced and purified. For this reason, the amount of NOx exhausted from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is suppressed.

Then, if the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 increases, at the time t4, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc reaches the judged reference storage amount Cref. In the present embodiment, if the oxygen storage amount OSAsc becomes the judged reference storage amount Cref, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is switched to a weak rich set shift amount AFCrich (value smaller than 0) to stop the storage of oxygen in the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. Therefore, the target air-fuel ratio is set to the rich air-fuel ratio.

However, as explained above, a delay occurs from when the target air-fuel ratio is switched to when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 actually changes. For this reason, even if switching at the time t4, after a certain extent of time passes from it, at the time t5, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 changes from the lean air-fuel ratio to the rich air-fuel ratio from. During the times t4 to t5, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is the lean air-fuel ratio, and therefore the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 increases.

However, the judged reference storage amount Cref is set sufficiently lower than the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax or the upper limit storage amount (see Cuplim in FIG. 14), and therefore even at the time t5, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc does not reach the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax or the upper limit storage amount. Conversely speaking, the judged reference storage amount Cref is set to an amount sufficiently small so that the oxygen storage amount OSAsc does not reach the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax or the upper limit storage amount even if a delay occurs from when switching the target air-fuel ratio to when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 actually changes. For example, the judged reference storage amount Cref is set to ¾ or less of the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax, preferably ½ or less, more preferably ⅕ or less. Therefore, during times t4 to t5 as well, the amount of NOx exhausted from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is suppressed.

After the time t5, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich. Therefore, the target air-fuel ratio is set to the rich air-fuel ratio. Along with this, the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 becomes a negative value. The exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 contains unburned gas, and therefore the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 gradually decreases. At the time t6, in the same way as the time t1, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc decreases below the lower limit storage amount. At this time as well, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes a rich air-fuel ratio, and therefore the amount of NOx exhausted from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is suppressed.

Next, at the time t7, in the same way as the time t2, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 reaches zero corresponding to the rich judged air-fuel ratio. Due to this, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is switched to the value AFClean corresponding to the lean set air-fuel ratio. Then, the cycle of the above-mentioned times t1 to t6 is repeated. Note that, during these cycles, the applied voltage Vrdwn to the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is maintained at a voltage whereby the exhaust air-fuel ratio at the time of zero current becomes the rich judged air-fuel ratio.

Note that, such control of the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is performed by the ECU 31. Therefore, the ECU 31 can be said to comprise: an oxygen storage amount increasing means for continuously setting a target air-fuel ratio of exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side catalyst 20 a lean set air-fuel ratio when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas which was detected by the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes a rich judged air-fuel ratio or less, until the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side catalyst 20 becomes the judged reference storage amount Cref; and an oxygen storage amount decreasing means for continuously setting the target air-fuel ratio a weak rich set air-fuel ratio when the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side catalyst 20 becomes the judged reference storage amount Cref or more so that the oxygen storage amount OSAsc never exceeds the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax but decreases toward zero.

As will be understood from the above explanation, according to the above embodiment, it is possible to constantly suppress the amount of discharge of NOx from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. That is, so long as performing the above-mentioned control, basically the amount of discharge of NOx from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is small.

Further, in general, if the oxygen storage amount OSAsc is estimated based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 and the estimated value of the intake air amount, etc., there is the possibility that error will occur. In the present embodiment as well, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc is estimated over the times t3 to t4, and therefore the estimated value of the oxygen storage amount OSAsc includes some error. However, even if such error is included, if setting the judged reference storage amount Cref sufficiently lower than the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax or upper limit storage amount, the actual oxygen storage amount OSAsc will almost never reach the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax or upper limit storage amount. Therefore, from such a viewpoint as well, it is possible to suppress the amount of discharge of NOx from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20.

Further, if the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst is maintained constant, the oxygen storage ability of the exhaust purification catalyst will fall. As opposed to this, according to the present embodiment, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc constantly fluctuates up and down, so the oxygen storage ability is kept from falling.

Furthermore, in the present embodiment, as explained above, the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 can accurately detect the absolute value at the rich judged air-fuel ratio. As explained using FIG. 2, in a conventional air-fuel ratio sensor, it was difficult to accurately detect the absolute value for an air-fuel ratio other than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. For this reason, in a conventional air-fuel ratio sensor, if aging or individual differences, etc., cause error in the sensor output current, even if the actual air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas differs from the rich judged air-fuel ratio, the sensor output current of the air-fuel ratio sensor may be a value which corresponds to the rich judged air-fuel ratio. As a result, the timing of switching of the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC from the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich to the lean set shift amount AFClean will become delayed or such switching will be performed at a timing not requiring such switching. As opposed to this, in the present embodiment, the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 can accurately detect the absolute value at the rich judged air-fuel ratio. For this reason, it is possible to keep the timing of switching of the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC from the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich to the lean set shift amount AFClean, from becoming delayed or such switching from being performed at a timing not requiring such switching.

Note that, in the above embodiment, during the times t2 to t4, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is maintained at the lean set shift amount AFClean. However, in such a time period, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC does not necessarily have to be maintained constant. It may be set to gradually decrease or otherwise change. Similarly, during the times t4 to t7, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is maintained at the weak rich set shift amount AFrich. However, in such a time period, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC does not necessarily have to be maintained constant. It may be set to gradually decrease or otherwise change.

However, even in this case, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC during the times t2 to t4 is set so that the difference of the average value of the target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in that period becomes larger than the difference between the average value of the target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio during the times t4 to t7.

Further, in the above embodiment, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is estimated, based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 and the estimated value of the amount of intake air to the combustion chamber 5, etc. However, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc may also be calculated by other parameters in addition to these parameters and may be estimated based on parameters which are different from these parameters. Further, in the above embodiment, if the estimated value of the oxygen storage amount OSAsc becomes the judged reference storage amount Cref or more, the target air-fuel ratio is switched from the lean set air-fuel ratio to the weak rich set air-fuel ratio. However, the timing of switching the target air-fuel ratio from the lean set air-fuel ratio to the weak rich set air-fuel ratio may, for example, use as a reference other parameter, such as the engine operating time etc. from when switching the target air-fuel ratio from the weak rich set air-fuel ratio to the lean set air-fuel ratio. However, even in this case, the target air-fuel ratio has to be switched from the lean set air-fuel ratio to the weak rich set air-fuel ratio in the period when the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is estimated to be smaller than the maximum oxygen storage amount.

<Explanation of Control Using Also Downstream Side Catalyst>

Further, in the present embodiment, in addition to the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, a downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 is provided. The oxygen storage amount OSAufc of the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 becomes a value near the maximum storage amount Cmax by fuel cut control which is performed every certain extent of time period. For this reason, even if exhaust gas containing unburned gas flows out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, the unburned gas is oxidized and purified at the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24.

Note that, “fuel cut control” is control to prevent injection of fuel from the fuel injectors 11 even if the crankshaft or pistons 3 are in an operating state, at the time of deceleration, etc., of the vehicle which mounts the internal combustion engine. If performing this control, a large amount of air flows into the two catalysts 20, 24.

Below, referring to FIG. 16, the trend in the oxygen storage amount OSAufc at the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 will be explained. FIG. 16 is a view similar to FIG. 15 and shows, instead of the trend in the concentration of NOx of FIG. 15, the trends in the oxygen storage amount OSAufc of the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 and the concentration of unburned gas (HC, CO, etc.) in the exhaust gas flowing out from the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24. Further, in the example shown in FIG. 16, control the same as the example shown in FIG. 15 is performed.

In the example shown in FIG. 16, fuel cut control is performed before the time t1. For this reason, before the time t1, the oxygen storage amount OSAufc of the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 is a value close to the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax. Further, before the time t1, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is held at substantially the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. For this reason, the oxygen storage amount OSAufc of the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 is maintained constant.

After that, during the times t1 to t4, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes the rich air-fuel ratio. For this reason, exhaust gas containing unburned gas flows into the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24.

As explained above, since the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 stores a large amount of oxygen, if the exhaust gas flowing into the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 contains unburned gas, the unburned gas is oxidized and purified by the stored oxygen. Further, along with this, the oxygen storage amount OSAufc of the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 decreases. However, during the times t1 to t4, the unburned gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is not that large, and therefore the amount of decrease of the oxygen storage amount OSAufc in this interval is slight. Therefore, the unburned gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 during the times t1 to t4 is completely oxidized and purified at the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24.

After the time t6 as well, every certain extent of time interval, in the same way as the case during the times t1 to t4, unburned gas flows out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. The thus flowing out unburned gas is basically oxidized and purified by the oxygen which is stored in the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24. Therefore, unburned gas almost never flows out from the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24. As explained above, if considering keeping NOx from flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, according to the present embodiment, the amounts of discharge of unburned gas and NOx from the downstream side exhaust purification catalyst 24 are always made small.

<Explanation of Specific Control>

Next, referring to FIGS. 17 and 18, a control system in the above embodiment will be specifically explained. The control system in the present embodiment, as shown by the functional block diagram of FIG. 17, is configured including the functional blocks A1 to A9. Below, each functional block will be explained while referring to FIG. 17.

<Calculation of Fuel Injection>

First, calculation of the fuel injection will be explained. In calculating the fuel injection, the cylinder intake air calculating means A1, basic fuel injection calculating means A2, and fuel injection calculating means A3 are used.

The cylinder intake air calculating means A1 calculates the intake air amount Mc to each cylinder based on the intake air flow rate Ga measured by the air flow meter 39, the engine speed NE calculated based on the output of the crank angle sensor 44, and the map or calculation formula stored in the ROM 34 of the ECU 31.

The basic fuel injection calculating means A2 divides the cylinder intake air amount Mc, which is calculated by the cylinder intake air calculating means A1, by the target air-fuel ratio AFT which is calculated by the later explained target air-fuel ratio setting means A6 to thereby calculate the basic fuel injection amount Qbase (Qbase=Mc/AFT).

The fuel injection calculating means A3 adds the basic fuel injection amount Qbase calculated by the basic fuel injection calculating means A2 and the later explained F/B correction amount DQi, to calculate the fuel injection amount Qi (Qi=Qbase+DQi). The fuel injector 11 is commanded to inject fuel so that the fuel of the fuel injection amount Qi which was calculated in this way is injected.

<Calculation of Target Air-Fuel Ratio>

Next, calculation of the target air-fuel ratio will be explained. In calculation of the target air-fuel ratio, an oxygen storage amount calculating means A4, target air-fuel ratio shift amount calculating means A5, and target air-fuel ratio setting means A6 are used.

The oxygen storage amount calculating means A4 calculates the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20, based on the fuel injection amount Qi calculated by the fuel injection calculating means A3 and the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40. For example, the oxygen storage amount calculating means A4 multiplies the difference between the air-fuel ratio corresponding to the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio, with the fuel injection amount Qi, and cumulatively adds the calculated values to calculate the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount. Note that, the oxygen storage amount calculating means A4 need not constantly estimate the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. For example, it is possible to estimate the oxygen storage amount only for the period from when the target air-fuel ratio is actually switched from the rich air-fuel ratio to the lean air-fuel ratio (time t3 in FIG. 15) to when the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount reaches the judged reference storage amount Cref (time t4 in FIG. 15).

In the target air-fuel ratio shift amount calculating means A5, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC of the target air-fuel ratio is calculated, based on the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount calculated by the oxygen storage amount calculating means A4 and the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41. Specifically, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the lean set shift amount AFClean when the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes zero (value corresponding to rich judged air-fuel ratio) or less. Then, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is maintained at the lean set shift amount AFClean until the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount reaches the judged reference storage amount Cref. If the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount reaches the judged reference storage amount Cref, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich. After that, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is maintained at a weak rich set shift amount AFCrich until the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes zero or less.

The target air-fuel ratio setting means A6 adds the reference air-fuel ratio, which is, in the present embodiment, the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFR, and the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC calculated by the target air-fuel ratio shift amount calculating means A5 to thereby calculate the target air-fuel ratio AFT. Therefore, the target air-fuel ratio AFT is set to either a weak rich set air-fuel ratio which is slightly richer than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFR (when the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is a weak rich set shift amount AFCrich) or a lean set air-fuel ratio which is leaner by a certain extent than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio AFR (when the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is a lean set shift amount AFClean). The thus calculated target air-fuel ratio AFT is input to the basic fuel injection calculating means A2 and the later explained air-fuel ratio difference calculating means A8.

FIG. 18 is a flow chart which shows the control routine for control for calculation of the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC. The illustrated control routine is performed by interruption every certain time interval.

As shown in FIG. 18, first, at step S11, it is judged if the calculating condition of the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC stands. The calculating condition of the air-fuel ratio shift amount stands, for example, when a fuel cut control is not performed. If it is judged that the calculating condition of the air-fuel ratio stands at step S11, the routine proceeds to step S12. At step S12, the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40, the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41, and the fuel injection amount Qi are acquired. Next, at step S13, the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount is calculated, based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 and the fuel injection amount Qi are which were acquired at step S12.

Next, at step S14, it is judged if the lean set flag Fr is set to 0. The lean set flag Fr is set to 1 if the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the lean set shift amount AFClean, and is set to 0 otherwise. If the lean set flag Fr is set to 0 at step S14, the routine proceeds to step S15. At step S15, it is judged if the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is zero or less. When it is judged that the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is larger than zero, the control routine is ended.

On the other hand, if the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 decreases and the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 falls, at step S15, it is judged that the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 is zero or less. In this case, the routine proceeds to step S16 where the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the lean set shift amount AFClean. Next, at step S17, the lean set flag Fr is set to 1 and the control routine is to ended.

In the next control routine, at step S14, it is judged that the lean set flag Fr is not set to 0 and the routine proceeds to step 18. At step S18, it is judged if the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount which was calculated at step S13 is smaller than the judged reference storage amount Cref. When it is judged that the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount is smaller than the judged reference storage amount Cref, the routine proceeds to step S19 where the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC continues to be the lean set shift amount AFClean. On the other hand, if the oxygen storage amount of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 increases, finally it is judged at step S18 that the estimated value OSAest of the oxygen storage amount is the judged reference storage amount Cref or more and the routine proceeds to step S20. At step S20, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to a weak rich set shift amount AFCrich, then, at step S21, the lean set flag Fr is reset to 0 and the control routine is ended.

<Calculation of F/B Correction Amount>

Returning again to FIG. 17, calculation of the F/B correction amount based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 will be explained. In calculation of the F/B correction amount, the numerical value converting means A7, air-fuel ratio difference calculating means A8, and F/B correction amount calculating means A9 are used.

The numerical value converting means A7 calculates the upstream side exhaust air-fuel ratio AFup corresponding to the sensor output current Ipup based on the sensor output current Ipup of the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40 and a map or calculation formula which defines the relationship between the sensor output current Ipup and the air-fuel ratio of the air-fuel ratio sensor 40. Therefore, the upstream side exhaust air-fuel ratio AFup corresponds to the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20.

The air-fuel ratio difference calculating means A8 subtracts the target air-fuel ratio AFT calculated by the target air-fuel ratio setting means A6 from the upstream side exhaust air-fuel ratio AFup calculated by the numerical value converting means A7 to thereby calculate the air-fuel ratio difference DAF (DAF=AFup-AFT). This air-fuel ratio difference DAF is a value which expresses excess/deficiency of the amount of fuel fed with respect to the target air-fuel ratio AFT.

The F/B correction amount calculating means A9 processes the air-fuel ratio difference DAF calculated by the air-fuel ratio difference calculating means A8 by proportional integral derivative processing (PID processing) to thereby calculate the F/B correction amount DFi for compensating for the excess/deficiency of the amount of feed of fuel based on the following equation (1). The thus calculated F/B correction amount DFi is input to the fuel injection calculating means A3.

DFi=Kp·DAF+Ki·SDAF+Kd·DDAF  (1)

Note that, in the above equation (1), Kp is a preset proportional gain (proportional constant), Ki is a preset integral gain (integral constant), and Kd is a preset derivative gain (derivative constant). Further, DDAF is the time derivative value of the air-fuel ratio difference DAF and is calculated by dividing the difference between the currently updated air-fuel ratio difference DAF and the previously updated air-fuel ratio difference DAF by the time corresponding to the updating interval. Further, SDAF is the time derivative value of the air-fuel ratio difference DAF. This time derivative value DDAF is calculated by adding the previously updated time derivative value DDAF and the currently updated air-fuel ratio difference DAF (SDAF=DDAF+DAF).

Note that, in the above embodiment, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is detected by the upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 40. However, the precision of detection of the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 does not necessarily have to be high, and therefore, for example, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas may be estimated based on the fuel injection amount from the fuel injector 11 and output of the air flow meter 39.

<Second Embodiment>

Next, referring to FIG. 19, a control system of an internal combustion engine according to a second embodiment of the present invention will be explained. The configuration and control of the control system of an internal combustion engine in the second embodiment are basically similar to the configuration and control of the control system of an internal combustion engine according to the first embodiment. However, in the control system of the present embodiment, even while the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich, every certain extent of time interval, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is temporarily set to a value corresponding to the lean air-fuel ratio (for example, lean set shift amount AFClean) for a short time. That is, in the control system of the present embodiment, even while the target air-fuel ratio is set to the weak rich set air-fuel ratio, every certain extent of time interval, the target air-fuel ratio is temporarily set to a lean air-fuel ratio for a short time.

FIG. 19 is a view similar to FIG. 15. In FIG. 19, the times t1 to t7 show timings of control similar to the times t1 to t7 in FIG. 15. Therefore, in the control shown in FIG. 19 as well, at the timings of the times t1 to t7, control similar to the control shown in FIG. 15 is performed. In addition, in the control shown in FIG. 19, between the times t4 to t7, that is, while the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is temporarily set to the lean set shift amount AFClean several times.

In the example shown in FIG. 19, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to a lean set shift amount AFClean over a short time from the time t8. As explained above, a delay occurs in the change of the air-fuel ratio, and therefore the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 is set to a lean air-fuel ratio over a short time from the time t9. In this way, if the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes a lean air-fuel ratio, during that time, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 temporarily increases.

In the example shown in FIG. 19, similarly, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is set to the lean set shift amount AFClean over a short time, at the time t10. Along with this, the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes a lean air-fuel ratio over a short time from the time t11 and, during that time, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 temporarily increases.

By temporarily increasing the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 in this way, the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 can be temporarily increased or the decrease in the oxygen storage amount OSAsc can be temporarily reduced. Therefore, according to the present embodiment, it is possible to extend the time from when switching the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich at the time t4 to when the sensor output current Ipdwn of the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 reaches zero (value corresponding to rich judged air-fuel ratio) at the time t7. That is, it is possible to delay the timing at which the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20 becomes close to zero and unburned gas flows out from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20. Due to this, it is possible to reduce the amount of outflow of unburned gas from the upstream side exhaust purification catalyst 20.

Note that, in the above embodiment, while the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is basically set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich (times t4 to t7), the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is temporarily set to the lean set shift amount AFClean. When temporarily changing the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC in this way, it is not necessarily required to change the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC to the lean set shift amount AFClean. The air-fuel ratio may be changed in any way so long as it is leaner than the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich.

Further, even while the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC is basically set to the lean set shift amount AFClean (times t2 to t4), the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC may temporarily be set to the weak rich set shift amount AFCrich. In this case as well, similarly, when temporarily changing the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC may be changed to any air-fuel ratio so long as one richer than the lean set shift amount AFClean.

However, in the present embodiment as well, the air-fuel ratio shift amount AFC during the times t2 to t4 is set so that the difference of the average value of the target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio in that period becomes larger than the difference of the average value of the target air-fuel ratio and the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio during the times t4 to t7.

Whatever the case, if expressing the first embodiment and the second embodiment together, the ECU 31 can be said to comprise: an oxygen storage amount increasing means for continuously or intermittently setting a target air-fuel ratio of exhaust gas flowing into the upstream side catalyst 20 to a lean set air-fuel ratio when the air-fuel ratio of the exhaust gas detected by the downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor 41 becomes a rich judged air-fuel ratio or less, until the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side catalyst 20 becomes the judged reference storage amount Cref; and an oxygen storage amount decreasing means for continuously or intermittently setting the target air-fuel ratio to a weak rich set air-fuel ratio when the oxygen storage amount OSAsc of the upstream side catalyst 20 becomes the judged reference storage amount Cref or more so that the oxygen storage amount OSAsc decreases toward zero without reaching the maximum oxygen storage amount Cmax.

<Third Embodiment>

Next, referring to FIG. 20, a control system of an internal combustion engine according to a third embodiment of the present invention will be explained. The configuration of the control system of an internal combustion engine according to the third embodiment is basically similar to the configuration and control of the control system of an internal combustion engine according to the above embodiments. However, in the control system of the present embodiment, a diffusion regulating layer is provided around the gas chamber side electrode of the reference cell of the air-fuel ratio sensor.

FIG. 20 schematically shows the configurations of the upstream air-fuel ratio sensor 80 and the downstream side sensor 81 of the third embodiment, and is a cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 3. As will be understood from FIG. 20, each of the air-fuel ratio sensors 80, 81 has a reference cell diffusion regulating layer 82 which is provided at the inside of the measured gas chamber 51. The reference cell diffusion regulating layer 82 is arranged so as to surround the gas chamber side electrode 57 of the reference cell 61. Therefore, the gas chamber side electrode 57 is exposed through the reference cell diffusion regulating layer 82 to the measured gas chamber 51.

By providing a reference cell diffusion regulating layer 82 around the gas chamber side electrode 57 in this way, it is possible to regulate the diffusion of the exhaust gas flowing in around the gas chamber side electrode 57. In this regard, if not sufficiently regulating the diffusion of the exhaust gas flowing into the surroundings of the gas chamber side electrode 57, the relationship among the exhaust air-fuel ratio, sensor applied voltage Vr, and reference cell output current Ir will hardly have a trend such as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8. As a result, sometimes it is not possible to suitably detect the absolute value of an air-fuel ratio other than the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio. In the present embodiment, by sufficiently regulating the diffusion of the exhaust gas flowing into the surroundings of the gas chamber side electrode 57 by the reference cell diffusion regulating layer 82, it is possible to detect the absolute value of an air-fuel ratio which is different from the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio more reliably.

Note that, when, in this way, providing a reference cell diffusion regulating layer 82 around the gas chamber side electrode 57, it is not necessarily required to provide a diffusion regulating layer 63 which defines the measured gas chamber 51. Therefore, instead of the diffusion regulating layer 63, it is also possible to provide a layer or fine holes, etc., which limit the inflow of exhaust gas into the measured gas chamber 51. Whatever the case, the diffusion regulating layer may be arranged at any position so long as being arranged so that the exhaust gas passes through that diffusion regulating layer to reach the gas chamber side electrode 57.

Note that, in this Description, the oxygen storage amount of the exhaust purification catalyst is explained as changing between the maximum oxygen storage amount and zero. This means that the amount of oxygen which can be further stored by the exhaust purification catalyst changes between zero (when oxygen storage amount is maximum oxygen storage amount) and the maximum value (when oxygen storage amount is zero).

5. combustion chamber

6. intake valve

8. exhaust valve

10. spark plug

11. fuel injector

13. intake branch pipe

15. intake pipe

18. throttle valve

19. exhaust manifold

20. upstream side exhaust purification catalyst

21. upstream side casing

22. exhaust pipe

23. downstream side casing

24. downstream side exhaust purification catalyst

31. ECU

39. air flow meter

40. upstream side air-fuel ratio sensor

41. downstream side air-fuel ratio sensor

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It takes the R&D behavior of the company itself into account that results in IP. During the invention phase, larger companies are considered to assign a higher R&D budget on a certain technology field, these companies have a better influence on their market, on what is marketable and what might lead to a standard.

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Citation

Patents Cited in This Cited by
Title Current Assignee Application Date Publication Date
Oxygen sensor NGK SPARK PLUG CO 09 March 1982 12 September 1983
ガス濃度検出装置 株式会社デンソー 05 July 2001 19 July 2002
Gas concentration measuring apparatus compensating for error component of output signal DENSO CORPORATION 30 October 2001 02 May 2002
全領域空燃比センサの劣化状態検出方法及び装置 日本特殊陶業株式会社 12 April 2004 16 September 2004
Driving circuit for air-fuel ratio sensor 日本特殊陶業株式会社 30 November 1990 24 July 1992
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