Researchers build a better, cheaper catalytic converter

Peter Morenus/UConn Photo
Peter Morenus/UConn Photo
Industry mentor Wen Fu, left, Yanbing Guo, and Pu-Xian Gao in a lab at the Institute of Materials Science with a sample of the catalyst they have developed.
Two UConn researchers have developed a technology that claims big improvements on the catalytic converter. They have created a new technology that is up to 30 percent cheaper to produce a novel, low-temperature catalyst for applications in automotive and industrial emission controls.

Assistant research professor Yanbing Guo and associate professor Pu-Xian Gao, both from UConn's Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Institute of Materials Science, created a nanorod-array technology that changes how the catalytic converters work. With help from UConn's NSF program, Accelerate UConn, the pair are described as well on their way to commercializing their new technology. Accelerate UConn staff connected the researchers with industry mentor Wen Fu of CLARCOR Engine Mobile Solutions in Windsor because of his 15 years experience in diesel engine-related industry.

"Emissions standards are only getting more and more rigorous and stringent, so in this case, 'building a better mousetrap' has a significant impact on the industry as well as the environment," said Gao in a statement.

The researchers have improved upon standard catalytic converters by reducing the amount of precious metals, such as platinum, rhodium, and/or palladium, that coat acres of surface area of a ceramic core to create a chemical reaction converting noxious emissions into more environmentally friendly products.

High-efficiency nano-catalysts are fabricated within their new converter device, improving low-temperature performance, increasing the lifetime of the converter, and potentially decreasing the price of the converter by up to 30 percent by reducing the use of precious metals.

According to a UConn statement, catalytic converters control carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and nitrogen oxide emissions for a broad spectrum of fuels, including gasoline, diesel, propane, and natural gas. Since the device was first required for all U.S. passenger cars in the mid-1970s, it has reduced pollution by more than 10 billion tons, and is now used in all types of passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as non-road engines, such as construction machinery and lawn equipment.