You probably don’t think much about catalytic converters but they have only been around for a relatively short period of time in comparison to the combustion engine. As a device designed to attach to the exhaust system of a vehicle, the converter provides the means for changing emissions that are considered serious pollutants into gases that are less damaging to the environment. Here are a few things you should know about these devices and what they accomplish.
Catalytic Converters Were Not First Developed for Use in Auto Exhaust Systems
Many people assume that these devices were first developed as a way to deal with automobile exhaust, In fact, the first catalytic converter was developed in 1950 and used in an industrial setting. Eugene Houdry came up with the first design and was instrumental in preparing it for use in smoke stacks. It would be the middle of the 1970s before the converters would be introduced and in some cases mandated for use with automobiles.
There’s Platinum in the Typical Converter
Did you know that catalytic converters contain a fair amount of platinum? That’s true of converters designed for use with gasoline powered engines and exhaust systems as well as those designed for use with vehicles that run on diesel fuel. The average amount of platinum used is in the range of 3 to 7 grams. Factors such as the size and type of engine, the manufacturer, and the design of the exhaust system will impact the amount of platinum used. That means the platinum found in a honda catalytic converter would not be the same amount as the platinum included in a converter attached to the exhaust system of a big rig.
Converters for Diesel Engines and Exhaust Systems are Different From Designs Used With Gasoline Engines
While the outcome is still more effectively managing what type of pollutants are released in the air, the design used for diesel engines has to take into account the weight of the fuel. Diesel fuel weighs roughly one more pound per gallon than unleaded gasoline. It also does not evaporate the way gasoline does. This results in the need for that the same diesel oxidation catalysts that can convert the gases flowing through the exhaust system into emissions that are much like those that emerge from automobiles running on unleaded gasoline.
Converters Don’t Come Cheap
You may have already guessed that the platinum is one reason why the converters are so expensive. There are also two other precious metals used in the more common designs: palladium and rhodium. While attempts to utilize less expensive metals occur from time to time, the results have been less than spectacular. Until someone comes up with a way to build an efficient converter without using these three metals, expect the cost to remain high.
While you may not think much about the catalytic converter on your vehicle, it’s working for you every time you get behind the wheel. Thanks to the effectiveness of the converters currently in use, the air is much cleaner than a few decades ago. That’s good news for you now and for your children in the years to come.
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