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Special Issue Article

Advances in Mechanical Engineering

2016, Vol. 8(3) 1–8
Ó The Author(s) 2016
Auto-identification of engine fault DOI: 10.1177/1687814016641840
acoustic signal through inverse
trigonometric instantaneous frequency

Dayong Ning, Jiaoyi Hou, Yongjun Gong, Zengmeng Zhang and

Changle Sun

The acoustic signals of internal combustion engines contain valuable information about the condition of engines. These
signals can be used to detect incipient faults in engines. However, these signals are complex and composed of a faulty
component and other noise signals of background. As such, engine conditions’ characteristics are difficult to extract
through wavelet transformation and acoustic emission techniques. In this study, an instantaneous frequency analysis
method was proposed. A new time–frequency model was constructed using a fixed amplitude and a variable cycle sine
function to fit adjacent points gradually from a time domain signal. The instantaneous frequency corresponds to single
value at any time. This study also introduced instantaneous frequency calculation on the basis of an inverse trigonometric
fitting method at any time. The mean value of all local maximum values was then considered to identify the engine condi-
tion automatically. Results revealed that the mean of local maximum values under faulty conditions differs from the nor-
mal mean. An experiment case was also conducted to illustrate the availability of the proposed method. Using the
proposed time–frequency model, we can identify engine condition and determine abnormal sound produced by faulty

Instantaneous frequency, engine, abnormal sound, faulty, time–frequency

Date received: 28 October 2015; accepted: 8 March 2016

Academic Editor: Teen-Hang Meen

Introduction methods can distinguish the faulty type of engines but

cannot achieve the target of real-time online diagnosis.
Engines are important apparatuses in most machineries, In engineering practice, experienced technicians hear
which work at high speeds and heavy loads under severe abnormal sounds when engines are in faulty
environmental conditions.1 When engines become faulty,
fault diagnosis systems should promptly distinguish the
engine conditions of fault engines to prevent engine dete- Transportation Equipment and Oceanographic Engineering College,
rioration and to ensure proper machinery functioning for Dalian Maritime University, Dalian, China
a long period. Faulty mechanical systems are often diag-
Corresponding author:
nosed on the basis of acoustic and vibration signals that Yongjun Gong, Transportation Equipment and Oceanographic Engineering
contain large data regarding the operating parameters College, Dalian Maritime University, Dalian 116026, China.
and physical conditions of engines.2–4 However, existing Email:

Creative Commons CC-BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without
further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
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2 Advances in Mechanical Engineering

conditions.5–7 Our study aims to confirm whether a fault

diagnosis system can automatically identify engine condi-
tions and whether engines remain functional under
faulty. Several methods are used to detect engine or
machine conditions. Tan and colleagues8–10 investigated
unsteady flows in a centrifugal pump volute under non-
cavitation and cavitation conditions using a computation
fluid dynamics framework. The main methods of engine
fault diagnosis based on sound signals include wavelet Figure 1. Example of a shocking acoustic signal.
transform and mode decomposition.11–13 Similar to
Fourier transformation technology, wavelet transforma-
tion technology can provide information regarding fre-
quency domain, some characteristics can be extracted in
the frequency domain.5,14–16 Shirazi and Mahjoob17
diagnosed the condition of a four-cylinder internal com-
bustion (IC) engine using discrete wavelet transform to
decompose vibration signals and to obtain appropriate
wavelet layers. Nevertheless, fault diagnosis in wavelet
transformation is complex, and the characteristic fre-
quency should be initially extracted. Wavelet function
also varies in different faults. Mode decomposition has Figure 2. Relationship between the maximum value ratio of
been proposed by Huang, and his colleagues proposed pure shocking signal to background noise and hearing clarity
and used empirical mode decomposition (EMD); in this degree.
process, any complicated signal can be decomposed into
a collection of intrinsic mode functions based on local
timescale characteristics of the signal.18 Yadav and may be masked by background noise when a faulty
Kalra19 decomposed an engine signal through EMD and component signal is small. The relationship between
applied a feature technique to diagnose an IC engine. the maximum value ratio of pure shocking signal to
Despite these advantages, wavelet transformation and background noise and hearing clarity degree is shown
mode decomposition based on sound/vibration signal in Figure 2. The ration was obtained through a hearing
analysis exhibit several weaknesses.20 Wavelet transfor- experimentation in Coolpro software. When the hear-
mation results highly depend on the ability of the selected ing clarity degree reaches 40%, abnormal sound can be
wavelet basis function to yield high coefficients, while all heard obviously.
other features are masked or completely ignored.21 EMD Differences in function can be described as the
mainly depends on experience and is associated with sev- change rate. The acute change position can be acquired;
eral problems, such as end effect and mode confusion. therefore, the differential value at the moment when an
Although this field has been extensively investigated, an abnormal sound is produced is larger than that
efficient method that can resolve EMD-related problems obtained at other moments. However, the background
has yet to be established. In some instances, faults in exhibits randomness, and large values may be present.
engines are determined, but fault type is not identified. As such, the difference function cannot be used to iden-
This chapter focuses on identifying whether an engine is tify engine conditions. Therefore, the instantaneous fre-
good or defective. Therefore, an instantaneous frequency quency technique was proposed to solve this problem.
technique was proposed. The instantaneous frequency technique was derived
from a simple inverse triangle algorithm; in this algo-
rithm, a unique frequency value can be obtained at any
Instantaneous frequency technique time. In this method, the instantaneous frequency can
Engines experience two types of fault. The first type be extracted from a time domain model, which was then
occurs when two or more parts of an engine scrape one used as the basis for the construction of a new time–
another. The other type ensues when an engine is frequency model.
exposed to shock. Figure 1 illustrates a typical shocking A fixed amplitude (amplitude = 3) and a variable
acoustic signal with an acute change at the starting frequency sine function were used to fit a pair of adja-
point. Most shocking acoustic signals exhibit the same cent points gradually (Figure 3). The sine function fre-
features. quency of the two points can be determined as the
A faulty component is possibly large when an abnor- frequency of the former point. One frequency is
mal sound is produced; otherwise, abnormal sounds detected at one point.

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Ning et al. 3

Figure 3. Schematic of adjacent points fitting.

Two adjacent sampling points, namely, X and Y, ~i

~ ri =
w where i = 1, 2, . . . , n; fs is the sampling rate
whose values are x and y, are used. The fitting function fs
is sin(wp + q). w and q can be calculated using the ð6Þ
known x and y in the fitting function
 The acoustic signal of the faulty engine (Fn) is com-
x = sinðwp1 + qÞ posed of background noise (Fbn) and malfunction
y = sinðwp2 + qÞ sound (Fmn)

where x is value of point X, y is value of point Y, w is Fn = Fbn + Fmn n = 1, 2, 3, . . . ð7Þ

frequency of point X, q is phase of point X, and p1 and
p2 are a pair of adjacent given sampling points. where n is sampling point.
Inverse sine transformation is applied to equation (1) The acoustic signal is Fbn when the engine is in good
condition. However, the acoustic signal is Fn when the
 engine malfunctions; extremely high Fn is even detected.
wp1 = arcsinx  q
ð2Þ Consequently, the instantaneous frequency range of the
wp2 = arcsiny  q
high extreme point and the time–frequency model
where p2 2 p1 = 1; w, which can be expressed in equa- change; thus, the engine condition can be detected.
tion (3), can be calculated using equation (2) The instantaneous frequency value between two
adjacent sampling points is relative to the signal inten-
w = arcsin x  arcsin y ð3Þ sity. Therefore, the two time–frequency models of two
signals which have the same waveform and the different
w can be substituted into Equation (2) and the phase q signal intensity are different. A normalization method
can be calculated as follows was proposed to solve the above problem. The calcula-
tion process is described as follows:
q = arcsin x  wp1 ð4Þ
1. Find the global maximum value from time–
We can use this method to calculate the instanta-
frequency model
neous frequency at any time (at any sampling point).
The instantaneous frequency is single value which is
~ max g = max (~
w wri ) where i = 1, 2, . . . , n ð8Þ
related to other points.
No negative values are found in the frequency 2. Normalize the time–frequency model
domain; therefore, w should be considered as an abso-
lute value ~ ri
~ nor i =
w where i = 1, 2, . . . , n ð9Þ
~ max
~ i = jwi j = jarcsin xi + 1  arcsin xi j
w where i = 1, 2, . . . , n:
In this study, a simply auto-identification of engine
The parameter w ~ i is the frequency of the sampling conditions was proposed. The process of this method is
point, and the real frequency is defined as follows described as follows:

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4 Advances in Mechanical Engineering

Figure 4. Value range of (a) v and (b) S9c and (c) comparison.

1. Find all local maximum value points from the can be denoted as Sc = Sc (n + 1)  Sc (n), where n is a
time–frequency model sampling point. The instantaneous frequency function
of Sc can be denoted as v = |arcsin[Sc(n + 1)] 2
~ max lj = l max (~
w wi ) where w ~ i .~ wi1 arcsin[(Sc(n))]|. The relationship between v and the val-
and w wi + 1 , i = 1, 2, . . . , n,
~ i .~ ð10Þ ues of two adjacent points is shown in Figure 4(a).
Figure 4(b) illustrates Sc .
j = 1, 2, . . . , m
Figure 4 shows that v is larger than Sc when the
2. Calculate the mean value of all local maximum sampling points are the same. As the sampling point
values value increases, the increase in v is higher than that of
Sc . Figure 2 illustrates that the maximum value of a
n shocking component is larger than that of the back-
~ mean =
w ~ max lj
w where j = 1, 2, . . . , m ð11Þ ground at the same time. Therefore, v at the moment
an abnormal sound occurs is larger than that at other
The value at the moment an abnormal sound signal moments.
occurs is larger than that at other moment. Therefore,
the mean of all local maximum values of the abnormal
Simulated experiment
sound signal is higher than mean of all local maximum
values of the normal sound signal in the normalized A simulated experiment was conducted to verify the
time–frequency model. The computer automatically validity of the time–frequency domain method. The test
detects the abnormal sound when the mean decreases. data of background noise are acquired from a serve
The following section describes the advantage of the motor. The fault data are generated using an aluminum
instantaneous frequency technique over the difference wire to scratch the bulge of a roundel mounted on the
method. We defined Ss as the shocking component, Sg output end of the motor (Figure 5).
as the background noise, and Sc as the mixed signal, The sound signal comprises the sound of a running
where Sc = Ss + Sg and the maximum value of Ss is serve motor and a scratching sound, which is an alias-
greater than that of Sg. The difference function of Sc ing signal (Figure 6(b)). The signal without a scratched

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Ning et al. 5

Figure 5. Simulated experimental apparatus.

sound is shown in Figure 6(a). The sampling rate of the

acoustic sensor is 44,100. When the serve motor is run-
ning at an operating speed of 180 r/min, the aluminum
wire periodically scratches the bulge mounted on the
rim of the roundel, and the acoustic sensor collects the
sound signal in real time. The data of the normal sound
and the scratching sound are then processed in a per-
sonal computer and the corresponding time–frequency
model (Figure 6(c) and (d)) is established. The moment
of scratching is distinguishable from other moments
(Figure 6(d)) because the value is larger than that
obtained at other moments, which is indicated by red
circles. The normalized time–frequency models of the
normal signal and the scratched signal are shown in
Figure 6(e) and (f). The normalized frequency can be
used to create a statistical model and to identify
whether an abnormal sound is produced.
The means of a non-scratching sound signal and a
scratching sound signal in the normalized time– Figure 6. Original signal, time–frequency model, and
frequency model are expressed as follows normalized time–frequency model of non-scratching and
scratching sound signals: (a) non-scratching sound signal, (b)
~ mean normal signal = 0:2966
w scratching sound signal, (c) time–frequency model of non-
~ mean scratched signal = 0:0917
w scratching sound signal, (d) time–frequency model of scratching
sound signal, (e) normalized time–frequency model of non-
On the basis of two parameters, we can distinguish scratching sound signal, and (f) normalized time–frequency
model of scratching sound signal.
the scratching sound signal from the non-scratching

Experiments were conducted in a 34-kW four-stroke
three-cylinder gasoline engine using a Sennheiser E945
acoustic sensor placed on the outer engine block
(Figure 7). Table 1 lists the engine specifications and
Table 2 lists the sensor parameters.
Data were acquired from the gasoline engine
(BYD371QA) when one of the cylinder bores marked
with a red-cross was scuffing. The experiments were
performed at a speed of 800 6 30 and 1800 6 30 r/
min. The acoustic sound was detected by the sensors,
whose sampling frequency was 44,100 Hz. Two acoustic
sensors were used in case one sensor interfered with the Figure 7. Experimental apparatus.

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6 Advances in Mechanical Engineering

Table 1. Engine specification.

Engine type BYD371QA

Bore stroke 84.00 mm

Displacement 998.00 mL
Compression ratio 10.50:1
Charged method Naturally aspirated

Table 2. Sensor parameters.

Sensor type Sennheiser E945

Frequency response range 40–18,000 Hz

Sensitivity (free field) (1 kHz) 2.0 mV/Pa
Normal impedance 350 Ohm
Minimum end impedance 1000 Ohm

Figure 9. Original signal and time–frequency model of a

normal cylinder and a scuffing cylinder at a speed of
1800 6 30 r/min: (a) normal signal at an engine speed of
1800 6 30 r/min, (b) scuffing cylinder bore signal, (c) normalized
time–frequency model of a normal signal, and (d) normalized
time–frequency model of a scuffing cylinder bore signal.

The normal signal and the scuffing cylinder bore sig-

nal with a speed of 800 6 30 r/min are shown in Figure
8(a) and (b). The two signals did not evidently differ.
The corresponding time–frequency models are shown
in Figure 8(c) and (d). However, the faulty engine of
one model could not be distinguished from the other
model. When listening to the sound signal with a speed
of 800 6 30 r/min, we could not also identify the faulty
signal between the normal signal and the scuffing cylin-
der bore signal.
Figure 8. Original signal and time–frequency model of a The normal signal and the scuffing cylinder bore sig-
normal cylinder and a scuffing cylinder at a speed of 800 6 30 r/ nal at a speed of 1800 6 30 r/min are shown in Figure
min: (a) normal signal at an engine speed of 800 6 30 r/min, (b) 9(a) and (b), respectively. These signals did not remark-
scuffing cylinder bore signal at an engine speed of 800 6 30 r/ ably differ from each other. However, the normal
min, (c) time–frequency models of the normal signal at an engine model was different from the scuffing cylinder bore
speed of 800 6 30 r/min, and (d) time–frequency models of the model in the terms of time–frequency domain (Figure
scuffing cylinder bore signal at an engine speed of 800 6 30 r/ 9(c) and (d)). In the time–frequency model of the nor-
mal signal, no abnormal change was detected. By con-
trast, the maximum values were high (marked with red
other components, but only one group of data was cho- circles) in the time–frequency model of the scuffing
sen. The normal sound data were obtained from the cylinder bore signal. A clicking sound indicating a
same engine after this engine was repaired. The original faulty sound signal could be heard by human ears, and
signal should be filtered by a low pass filter whose the moment of the clicking sound is matched with the
threshold is 2000 Hz to eliminate the high-frequency maximum value in the time–frequency model of the
interference. scuffing cylinder bore through listening.

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Ning et al. 7

Figure 11. Original signal and normalized time–frequency

model of the bolt looseness fault in an engine bonnet.

1. The new time–frequency model was proposed in

the article, the calculating process was intro-
Figure 10. Comparison of wavelet transform and inverse
duced, and the method was verified through a
trigonometric instantaneous frequency analysis methods.
series of experiments.
2. The method was based on abnormal sounds
The means of the normal sound signal and the scuff-
that could be identified by human ears. The
ing sound signal in the normalized time–frequency
abnormal sound can be distinguished easily by
model are expressed as follows
the time–frequency model when an engine pro-
duces a regular abnormal sound. By contrast,
~ mean normal = 0:2612
the faulty condition of the engine can be hardly
~ mean scuffing = 0:1137
w identified when the engine produces a slightly
regular abnormal sound or an irregular abnor-
The faulty condition indicated by the corresponding
mal sound.
signal can be easily identified because w ~ mean normal is
much bigger than w ~ mean scuffing .
The results of the proposed method and the wavelet Declaration of conflicting interests
transform method are compared in Figure 10. The orig- The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
inal signal originated from the scuffing cylinder at a respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
speed of 1800 6 30 r/min (Figure 9(b)). The wavelet article.
transform method was applied to perform a four-layer
db10 wavelet decomposition. To facilitate the compari- Funding
son, we transformed the wavelet layers into the same
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial sup-
form; the absolute values were calculated and then nor- port for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
malized. The d3 wavelet layer (Figure 10) is similar to article: This work was financially supported by the
the normalized time–frequency model (Figure 9(d)). Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities
However, appropriate wavelet function and wavelet (No. 3132015091), Liaoning Natural Science Foundation
layer should be selected in practical applications. (No. 2014025007), National Key Technology Support
Another experiment was performed to examine the Program (Nos 2014BAB12B05 and 2014BAB12B06),
bolt looseness fault in an engine bonnet. The original National Natural Science Fund (No. 51275063), and Dalian
signal and the normalized time–frequency model science and technology planning project (2014A11GX023).
(Figure 11) were described in this study. Figure 11 illus-
trates that the normalized time–frequency model can References
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