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New catalytic converter could help to reduce pollution

A new synthetic material that accelerates the removal of toxic gases will be tested on a new prototype catalytic converter.

Catalytic converters are devices fitted to the exhaust pipes of internal combustion engines to reduce toxic emissions. 

Many conventional catalytic converters use platinum group metals as a catalyst, which convert toxic nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide gases from the engine into nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases by the time it is emitted from the exhaust pipe. 

Not only are the platinum group metals expensive, but they also do not become effective until the engine is running with an exhaust temperature above 150 degrees Centigrade, often 200°C.

Traffic fumes in urban areas often come from vehicles operating at lower temperatures because they are either idling or moving at low speed. As a result, conventional catalytic converters under urban road conditions may be operating with less than 50% efficiency.

black vehicle

In a bid to tackle this issue, scientists at the University of Leeds have developed a new synthetic material that can be fitted to a traditional catalytic converter to further reduce emissions. 

The research team will work with Cats & Pipes who design and manufacture catalytic converters to scale up the production. 

The aim is to have a prototype device fitted to a test vehicle by 2023, enabling its performance to be compared with current catalytic converters under real road conditions. 

Dr Hu Li, associate professor in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, who is leading the project, said: ‘Among the biggest contributors to poor air quality in urban areas are traffic fumes, from vehicles which are either stationary or moving slowly.

‘Current catalytic converters do an inefficient job in reducing emissions under those conditions. At Leeds, we are confident that the new catalytic material will outperform existing technology.’

Simon Clarke, commercialisation manager at the University, said: ‘LowCat is a very exciting technology that appears to have significant commercial potential. We are very grateful for the support offered to us by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and we are looking forward to scale-up and prototype trials, with our industrial partner, Cats & Pipes.’

Photo by Matt Boitor

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