Precise piston trajectory control for a free piston engine

Ke Li, Chen Zhang, Zongxuan Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


A free piston engine removes the mechanical constraint on the piston motion by eliminating the crankshaft. The extra degree of freedom offers many advantages for reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Nevertheless, stability and robustness of the engine operation has been affected in the meantime. To ensure smooth engine operation, an active motion controller, which utilizes robust repetitive control, was developed previously to regulate the piston motion of a hydraulic free piston engine to track pre-defined trajectories. However, the long piston stroke length, high operating frequency and system nonlinearity impose challenges to precise piston motion control. Therefore, feedforward controllers are investigated in this paper to complement the repetitive control to further improve the tracking performance. The first feedforward design involves the inversion of a linear plant model that describes the dynamics of the engine operation, and the second design is based on the flatness approach, which involves the inversion of a nonlinear model of the system. The two feedforward controllers are designed and implemented on the free piston engine. The experimental and simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed control under various operating conditions and reference piston trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-38
Number of pages9
JournalControl Engineering Practice
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the National Science Foundation Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) for the financial support ( EEC-0540834 ) and Ford Motor Company for donating the hydraulic free piston engine.


  • Feedforward control
  • Free piston engine
  • Hydraulic actuators
  • Repetitive control
  • Tracking


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