Catalytic converter

From Academic Kids

A catalytic converter in an automobile's exhaust system provides an environment for a chemical reaction where unburned hydrocarbons completely combust, using platinum and rhodium as catalysts. Hence the combustion (redox) process continues, but outside the engine's combustion chamber, so no useful energy is extracted. Toxic car gases such as unburned hydrocarbon (UHC) and carbon monoxide (CO) would not exist if the fuel to energy conversion in the engine were perfect.

A three-way catalytic converter has three simultaneous tasks:

  1. oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2
  2. reduction of nitrogen oxides to nitrogen: NOx → O2 + N2
  3. oxidation of hydrocarbons (unburnt fuel) to carbon dioxide and water: CxHy + <math>\left ( x+\frac{y}{4} \right )<math>O2 → xCO2 + <math>\frac{y}{2}<math>H2O

These three reactions are most balanced at the stoichiometric point, where there is a balanced amount of oxygen to fuel in the engine. When there is more oxygen than required, then the system is said to be running lean, and the system is in oxidizing conditions. The above two oxidizing reactions (oxidation of CO and hydrocarbons) are favoured. When there is more fuel than oxygen (stoichiometrically), then the engine is running rich. The reduction of NOx is favoured.

Catalytic converters become ineffective in the presence of lead, and the introduction of catalytic converters triggered the end of leaded gasoline.

Catalytic converters are now standard fit in North America on "Large Spark Ignition" engines. LSI engines are used in forklifts, aerial boom lifts, ice resurfacing machines, and construction equipment. The converters used in these are three-way types designed to reduce combined NOx+HC emissions from 12 gram/BHPhour to 3 gram/BHPhour or less, as per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2004 regulations. A further drop to 2 gram/BHPhour of NOx+HC emissions is mandated in 2007 (note: NOx is the industry standard short form for Nitric Oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) both of which are smog precursors. HC is the industry short form for hydrocarbons).

See also

Patents

fi:Katalysaattori

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