Chemistry Put To Work: Catalytic Converters (Chapter 14)

1041 words - 5 pages

Catalytic converters have become a major importance in our world’s fight for global warming. Why? Because these catalytic converters are greatly reducing the amount of air pollution coming from the exhausts of our automobiles. “Two components of automobile exhausts that help form photochemical smog are nitrogen oxides and unburned hydrocarbons. In addition, automobile exhaust may contain considerable quantities of carbon monoxide” (Brown, LeMay, Bursten, Murphy, & Woodward, 2012). However, adding catalytic converters to the exhaust of automobiles will cause a chemical reaction to occur and help somewhat prevent the amount of pollution that exits the exhaust.
“In the mid-1900’s, a man by ...view middle of the document...

The combustion of this mixture of hydrocarbons with oxygen from the atmosphere creates emissions, which in a perfect engine would convert into water vapor and carbon dioxide. However, almost every automotive engine manufactured are not perfect, and “the combustion process creates other chemical byproducts which contribute to air pollution” (Belcastro, 2012). The reaction of the combustion of a perfect engine and a normal automotive vehicle is shown below: (Belcastro, 2012)

In a perfect engine:
HC+O_2+N_2 □(→┴yields ) CO_2+H_2 O+N_2
The fuel or hydrocarbons would react with the oxygen and nitrogen in the air to produce carbon dioxide, water vapor and unchanged nitrogen.
However in the typical engine:
HC+O_2+N_2 □(→┴yields ) HC+CO_2+H_2 O+NO_x+CO
The fuel or hydrocarbons reacts with the oxygen and nitrogen in the air and produces unburned hydrocarbons (gases and solid particulate matter), carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.
Because automobile engines are not perfect and cause pollution, the catalytic converters purpose is to remove the nitrogen oxides, unburned hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide. The catalytic converters do this by “performing two functions: (1) oxidizing CO and unburned hydrocarbons (C_x H_y) to carbon dioxide and water, and (2) reducing nitrogen oxides to nitrogen gas” (Brown, LeMay, Bursten, Murphy, & Woodward, 2012). This is done through the reaction shown below: (Brown, LeMay, Bursten, Murphy, & Woodward, 2012)
Oxidation of carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons:
CO,C_x H_y □(→┴O_2 ) CO_2+H_2 O
Reduction of nitrogen:
NO,NO_2 □(→┴ )N_2
Through these catalyzed reactions in the converter, the majority of the pollutants in the exhaust of automobiles are converted to compounds useable in our natural environment. However, the catalytic converters are 100% effective and do allow some pollutants out of the exhaust.
Recently, there has been a newer creation of a catalytic converter that has shown major improvements and effectiveness from the current catalytic converters being used in today’s automobiles. A British scientist, Dr. Benjamin Kingsbury, a research associate at Imperial College London, “has developed a new type of converter that should be cheaper, longer-lasting and more...

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