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Presented by Ashvin Chandera Roll no.-07 3rd semester Materials Science

What is a catalytic converter ?

History. Why has it been needed to introduce ? How does it reduce pollution ? Types - On the basis of function. Technical details. Advantages. Disadvantages. References.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is a device used to reduce the toxicity of emissions from an Internal combustion engine.

Catalytic converters are also used on generator sets, mining equipment, trucks , buses , trains, and other engine-equipped machines. A catalytic converter provides an environment for a chemical reaction wherein toxic combustion by-products are converted to lesstoxic substances.

First widely introduced on seriesproduction automobiles in the US market for the 1975 model year to comply with tight regulations on auto exhaust, catalytic converters are still most commonly used in motor vehicle exhaust systems .

Why has it been needed to introduce?

There are millions of cars on the road, and each one is a source of air pollution. Especially in large cities, the amount of pollution that all the cars produce together can create big problems. To solve those problems, cities, states and the federal government create clean-air laws that restrict the amount of pollution that cars can produce. Over the years, automakers have made many refinements to car engines and fuel systems to keep up with these laws. The job of the catalytic converter is to convert harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they ever leave the car's exhaust system.

How does it reduce pollution ?

In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. Catalysts participate in the reactions, but are neither reactants nor products of the reaction they catalyze. In the catalytic converter, there are two different types of catalyst at work, a reduction catalyst and an oxidation catalyst. Both types consist of a ceramic structure coated with a metal catalyst, usually platinum, rhodium and/or palladium.

The idea is to create a structure that exposes the maximum surface area of catalyst to the exhaust stream, while also minimizing the amount of catalyst required, as the materials are extremely expensive. Some of the newest converters have even started to use gold mixed with the more traditional catalysts.


Reduction Catalyst :-

The reduction catalyst is the first stage of the catalytic converter. It uses platinum and rhodium to help reduce the NOx emissions. When an NO or NO2 molecule contacts the catalyst, the catalyst rips the nitrogen atom out of the molecule and holds on to it, freeing the oxygen in the form of O2. The nitrogen atoms bond with other nitrogen atoms that are also stuck to the catalyst, forming N2. For example:

2NO => N2 + O2 2NO2 => N2 + 2O2


Oxidation catalyst :-

It is the second stage of the catalytic converter. It reduces the unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by burning (oxidizing) them over a platinum and palladium catalyst. This catalyst aids the reaction of the CO and hydrocarbons with the remaining oxygen in the exhaust gas.
For example:

2CO + O2 => 2CO2 2CxHy + (2x+y/2)O2 2xCO2 + yH2O

There are two main types of structures used in catalytic converters -- honeycomb and ceramic beads. Most cars today use a honeycomb structure.

Ceramic honeycomb catalyst structure

Types - On the basis of function.

Three-way catalytic converters :
In a three-way catalytic converter, the converter is positioned in front of the oxidation catalyst. A three-way catalytic converter reduces NOx emissions as well as CO and HC. The three-way catalyst reduces NOx into nitrogen and oxygen.

Two-way catalytic converters :

This type of catalytic converter is widely used on diesel engines to reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. A two-way catalytic converter has two simultaneous tasks: Oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 2CO2 Oxidation of unburnt hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide and water: 2CxHy + (2x+y/2)O2 2xCO2 + yH2O

Technical details.
The catalytic converter consists of several components: The core, or substrate. In modern catalytic converters, this is most often a ceramic honeycomb, however stainless steel foil honeycombs are also used. The purpose of the core is to "support the catalyst" and therefore it is often called a "catalyst support".

The catalyst itself is most often a precious metal. Platinum is the most active catalyst and is widely used. However, it is not suitable for all applications because of unwanted additional reactions and cost. Palladium and Rhodium are two other precious metals that are used. Platinum and rhodium are used as a reduction catalyst, while platinum and palladium are used as an oxidization catalyst.

1. The most significant advantage of using Catalytic Converter is the pollution control which has come up as a boon to every lives. Reducing the toxicity of the emission gases which are carcinogenic in nature, it has saved the environment a lot. 2. Size & Shape of it is not too gigantic , hence easy to incorporate in the vehicles. 3. No requirement of fuel and also no need of continuous maintenance.

1. Catalytic converters are an integral part of the vehicles emission system. They are designed to work within a very limited band of exhaust gas concentration, too rich or too lean and the life of the converter will be reduced. 2. Recycling is not possible. Once it gets damaged it has to be changed and a new one has to be used in case of vehicles. 3. Cost factor is a headache as it consists of costly catalysts like- platinum, gold, rhodium etc.

Handbook of Heterogeneous catalyst Edited by G.Ertl & h.Kniizinger (2005) www.catalyticconverter.org