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New cat to use 80% less precious metals

Parts prices
Cats are currently a valuable item for our industry but the latest development could reduce the precious metal content by 80%
Scientists from Imperial College London have created a new catalytic converter that could cut fuel consumption and manufacturing costs.


According to the article on Imperial College’s website, tests suggest that the prototype could reduce fuel consumption in a standard vehicle by up to three per cent. and also reduce the amount of CO2 that each vehicle emits.

Of greater significance to our industry is that the new design uses up to 80 per cent less rare metal, a development that could not only significantly reduce costs for vehicle manufacturers but reduce their value at end of life. Precious metals currently account for up to 60 to 70 per cent of the cost of a cat.

This new cat is also expected to perform better than existing models with laboratory tests indicating a deterioration of only 4% over 100,000 kilometres, compared to 35 per cent for a standard cat.

The new cat was developed by Dr Benjamin Kingsbury, Professor Kang Li and Dr Zhentao Wu who are all from Imperial College’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

Dr Kingsbury says: “Catalytic converters are the most important component in a vehicle for controlling exhaust emissions. Yet their design has not changed since they were first developed in the 1940s. The prototype I have developed could make cars cheaper to run because they use less fuel. It could potentially help manufacturers to reduce their costs. Drivers could also be a major beneficiary of this device, which could save on fuel costs and ultimately lead to reduced CO2 emissions.”

The researchers have advanced an existing manufacturing process to improve the structure of the microscopic channels, increasing the surface area and enabling the rare metal in the device to be distributed more effectively so that less metal is used. The increased surface area also makes the catalytic converter’s chemical reaction process more efficient.

The new design of the device increases fuel efficiency because it prevents ‘back pressure’, which is a build up of gases that can make the engine work harder, affecting its performance.

Dr Kingsbury has been awarded funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering to take his prototype to the marketplace. Dr Kingsbury and his partners worked with Imperial Innovations to establish an Imperial start-up company in December 2013 to market the prototype device. A key next step is to develop a production process for mass manufacture. You can read the full article here.

March 2014

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