A new type of catalytic converter looks to improve emissions.

It achieves this by accelerating the removal of harmful nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide from engine fumes. The new model is being developed jointly by Scientists at the University of Leeds and  manufacturer Cats and Pipes.

Synthetic solution

The hope is to have a prototype fitted to a test vehicle by 2023. It is believed that using a new synthetic material will revolutionise catalytic converters.

Presently, conventional catalytic converters use platinum group metals as a catalyst. These convert harmful gases from an engine into nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

However, these metals are expensive and do not become effective until the engine is hot.  The exhaust temperature needs to be above 150 degrees centigrade. Traffic fumes in urban areas often come from vehicles operating at lower temperatures because they are idling or moving at low speed. As a result, they can be operating with less than 50% efficiency.

University brains

The synthetic material developed at Leeds is effective at low and even ambient temperatures.

Dr Hu Li, associate professor in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Leeds, is leading the project.

“Among the biggest contributors to poor air-quality in urban areas are traffic fumes. These come from vehicles which are either stationary or moving slowly. Current catalytic converters do an inefficient job in reducing emissions under those conditions. At Leeds, we are confident that the new catalytic material will out-perform existing technology.”

Called LowCat, the development will also investigate the commercial viability of scaled-up production. Cutting the use of precious metals could also cut down on the rising number of catalytic converter thefts.