I’ve been looking at a lot of the data being published and trends in questions on the forum, and there is a theme developing. The results are not consistent with expectations. We’re also now getting some reports from laboratory studies that are confirming there’s a problem. The collective information strongly suggests that the data the Air Quality Eggs are reporting is incongruent with the natural response of the sensors.
In light of this growing body of evidence, I built a much simplified reference circuit based on the sensor datasheets and recorded sensor readings along side the Egg for several hours. Sure enough, the reference circuit exhibited a fairly smooth / continuous response over time. The Egg did not.
I decided the rational thing to do was to conduct a series of controlled experiments in an effort to establish the root cause of the variation between the Sensor Shield and the Reference Circuit behavior. This was a daunting proposition with so many potential variables in play, but I did my best to come up with some viable hypotheses. The fundamental differences between the reference circuit and the Sensor Shield / Air Quality Egg are:
- The Air Quality Egg had a fan (which affects airflow and electrical load), the reference circuit did not
- The Air Quality Egg was in an enclosure, the reference circuit was not
- The Sensor Shield dynamically controlled the heater voltage, the reference circuit did not
- The Sensor Shield dynamically selected the voltage divider, the reference circuit did not
For the first two bullets I did a series of tests that ultimately revealed the enclosure didn’t have much of an impact, but that disconnecting the fan from the Air quality Egg circuit has a very noticeable impact. As a quick aside, all of the following graphs have elapsed time in milliseconds on the x-axis and ADC counts on the y-axis. The following graph compares the response of the reference circuit, to an Air Quality Egg with a fan and enclosure, and to an Air Quality Egg with neither a fan nor an enclosure.
The difference is readily apparent. The data with the fan (red) has a bout 50 ADC counts of noise on it. The data with no fan (blue) in the circuit, however, still had a peculiarity of these randomly appearing spike discontinuities in the data. I made modified builds of the Sensor Shield firmware that took out the Heater Control algorithm, took out the Range Selection algorithm, and took out both. The result of taking out both looked like this (with and without an enclosure) in comparison to the reference circuit.
Lo and behold, with the fan removed and the software sophistication removed, the Air Quality Egg response has neither noise nor spikes, and it seems to track the reference circuit quite well. I then added just the Heater Control algorithm back in and I got this result:
This confirms, in my view, that the Heater Control algorithm is the source of spiky-ness in the Air Quality Egg data. I’m currently studying the software intensely to come up with an improved version of the Sensor Shield firmware, and will post another update when I know more.