What Are Catalytic Converters? Essay

1690 words - 7 pages

Catalytic ConvertersWhat is a catalytic converter and how does it do what they do.The term Catalytic Converter covers the stainless steel box mounted in the exhaust system. Inside the cover is the catalyst, a ceramic or metallic base with an active coating incorporating alumina, ceria and other oxides and combinations of the precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium. The base can be protected from vibration and shock by a resilient ceramic or metallic 'mat'The main by-products of combustion are:Nitrogen gas (N2): Our atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen gas, and most of this passes right through the car engine.Carbon Dioxide (CO2): A harmless, odorless gas composed of carbon and oxygen. It is also a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.Water vapor (H2O): Another by-product of combustion. The hydrogen in the fuel bonds with the oxygen in the air.These three emissions are mostly harmless, although carbon dioxide emissions are believed to contribute to global warming. However since the combustion process is never perfect, other more harmful emissions are produced in the process.Carbon monoxide (CO): A colorless, odorless gas. It is poisonous and extremely dangerous in confined areas, building up slowly to toxic levels without warning if adequate ventilation is not available.Hydrocarbons or volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Any chemical compound made up of hydrogen and carbon.Oxides of nitrogen (NOx): Chemical compounds of nitrogen, they combine with hydrocarbons to produce smog.These are the three main regulated emissions, and also the ones that catalytic converters are designed to reduce.Catalytic converters can either be an oxidation or three-way type. Oxidation catalysts convert carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC) to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water, but have little effect on nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter. Three-way catalysts operate in a closed-loop system together with a lambda, or oxygen, sensor to regulate the air/fuel ratio on gasoline engines. The catalyst can then at the same time oxidize CO and HC to CO2 and water while reducing NOx to nitrogen.Most cars today are equipped with a three-way catalytic converter. The term Three-way refers to the three emissions it helps to reduce, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NOx molecules. The converter uses two different types of catalysts, a reduction catalyst and an oxidization catalyst. Both types consist of a base structure coated with a catalyst such as platinum, rhodium and/or palladium. The scheme is to create a structure that exposes the maximum surface area of the catalyst to the exhaust flow, while also minimizing the amount of catalyst required.The inside of the catalytic converter is a honeycomb set of passageways or small ceramic beads coated with catalysts. A chemical reaction takes place to make the pollutants less harmful. There are many passages for the exhaust gases to flow, to allow for the maximum amount of...

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