Catalytic Converters

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Catalytic Converters

By | October 1999
Page 1 of 2
Catalytic Converters

Notice when a vehicle drives by nowadays, that it is so much quieter than those loud oldies that pour out the blue smoke. Ever wonder just what is underneath a vehicle that makes the new ones so much cleaner. It is called a catalytic converter. The main function of a catalytic converter is to decrease pollution emitted from a vehicles exhaust. The concept behind this is to add a catalyst and force a reaction between the automobile's exhaust and oxygen in the converter. To see just how this happens let's look inside of a catalytic converter.

A catalytic converter is made up mainly of a mufflerlike chamber which contains porous, heat-resistant materials coated with either platinum or palladium. These materials are known as catalysts. A catalyst is an element which although causing a reaction to occur, does not change at all during the reaction. This is the idea behind a catalytic converter. The carbon monoxide gas and hydrocarbons emitted from the engine will travel along the exhaust system until they reach they catalytic converter. There it comes into contact with the described catalyst. This forces a reaction between the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons with the oxygen inside the converter creating products of carbon dioxide and water vapor. The reaction which occurs inside the converter is as follows:

The main compounds involved are carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons (compounds of hydrogen and carbon), as well as oxygen. When these three are combined with the provided catalyst, a reaction occurs as above. During the reaction the oxygen splits apart the carbon monoxide and the hydrocarbons and allows them to combine with its elements forming the aforementioned products.

The catalytic converter first made an appearance in vehicles in 1975. The government of the United States of America had established a law controlling auto emissions. There was one minor detail that was outlined in the use of a catalytic converter,...