What Is a Catalytic Converter? (Deep Dive)

Let me walk you through a hypothetical world. In a world with high temperatures, flooded with acid rain, coaster areas are drowned by water and a massive discrepancy in the oxidation-nitrogen ratio in the air.

This is a terrible scenario!

But, do you know what I've just mentioned might happen soon as an impact of air pollution?

And, unfortunately, the car you use is a significant source of air pollution.

The pollutants produced in the combustion chamber of the car engine can create holes in the layer of Ozone, allowing ultraviolet rays to enter the earth's atmosphere, which causes skin cancer. This also causes global warming and acid rain.

The scientist needed to stop this if not reduce this emission. And, to do this, harmful pollutants must be neutralized or minimized in toxicity.

Enter the catalytic converter. A converter device is used in car engines to reduce the toxicity of the pollutant produced in the combustion process.

In this article, I'd introduce you to the Catalytic converter, what it is, how it works, what is inside the device, how it saves the environment, and what harm it could make if not used on the car.

If you're interested in all of these, let's jump right in.

What Is a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is an emission control device that reduces the toxic gas produced by an internal combustion engine into fewer pollutants gas.

Catalytic converters reduce toxic combust gas by catalyzing and redox reaction. A catalytic converter is a simple device that uses basic redox reactions to reduce a car's pollutants.

Car engines produce around 98% of harmful fumes, but this device converts them into less harmful gases.

It has an external metal case and an interior ceramic honeycomb layer with insulating layers. An aluminum oxide washcoat covers the thin walls of this honeycomb interior.

Having porous surfaces allows reactions to take place more readily and contains metals such as platinum, rhodium, and palladium.

Each converter uses a maximum of 4-9 grams of each precious metal. The converter uses simple oxidation and reduction reactions to convert the unwanted fumes.

Remember that oxidation occurs when electrons are lost, while reduction occurs when electrons are gained. The precious metals mentioned previously convert toxic fumes into something useful by transferring electrons.

Who Invented the Catalytic Converter?

Developed by Engelhard Corporation in 1973, the first commercial catalytic converters started appearing around 1975.

And, the catalytic converter was invented and patented by french mechanical engineer Eugene Houdry.

The converter was widely introduced in the U.S. automobile market to comply with the strict regulation of exhaust emissions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

From 1975 most gasoline-powered vehicles started to be equipped with a catalytic converter.

Types of Catalytic Converters

We have discussed in detail above what the catalytic converters are. Hopefully, after reading the article, your ambiguity is gone about catalytic converters. In the following chapter, we will consider What is Inside a Catalytic Converter in detail and Why it is used in your automobile engine. Now let’s identify the Types of Catalytic Converters.

We found the two types of catalytic converters that use in automobile engine They are:

  • Two-way converter
  • Three-way converter

Let's check out each of them in more detail.

Two-way converter

This type of catalytic converter reduces hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emissions in diesel engines.

Automobiles sold in the United States and Canada at the time used them as well. Three-way converters replaced them as they were unable to control oxides of nitrogen.

Three-way converter

The advantage of three-way catalytic converters is that they reduce emissions of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) (both of which are abbreviated with NOx and should not be confused with nitrous oxide (N2O)), which are precursors to acid rain and smog.

What Inside a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters are usually made from platinum or another similar metal, such as palladium or rhodium. The cat housing contains a ceramic honeycomb structure that permits gas to flow through it.

Several metals are used here, and each has an important role to play in reducing emissions. In a car, a catalyst can be of two different types:

Nitrogen oxide pollution can be reduced by removing oxygen with reduction catalysts. When nitrogen oxides are broken up, they form nitrogen and oxygen gases, which are harmless on their own.

The process of adding oxygen to carbon monoxide changes it into carbon dioxide.

Oxygen (O2) sensors are also located near the catalytic converter and are used to report how much oxygen is present in the exhaust gas to the car's ECU.

An engine that runs on a more efficient air/fuel ratio can provide enough oxygen to the converter to complete the oxidation process.

You may rich How To Clean A Catalytic Converter.

Why Are Catalytic Converters Used in Car Engines?

Catalytic converters are used in a car engine because pollutants could drastically damage the environment by polluting the air if not used.

Catalytic converters reduce the risks of the toxic by-product that must be evacuated from the engine.

For your reference, I'm mentioning some of the toxic pollutants produced in the process that the catalytic converter reduces through the redox process to filter and convert nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, and hydrocarbons.

Nitrogen oxides

Nitrous oxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric acid, nitrates, and nitric oxide are all members of this family. Upon being released into the air, NOx reacts with organic compounds in the air; the result is smog.

Pollutants like smog are harmful to children's lungs. Reactions between NOx and sulfur dioxide produce acid rain, which is highly destructive.

The acidity of acid rain pollutes lakes, streams, and national monuments. It also damages cars, plants, buildings and pollutes national monuments.

As well as creating biological mutations (such as smog), NOx can also reduce light transmission.

Carbon monoxide

Although CO2 is a naturally occurring gas, this variant of it is harmful. This colorless and odorless gas has few applications in everyday life.

Hydrocarbons

Fuels such as gasoline, household cleaners, propellants, kerosene, and other fuels can be fatal to children if inhaled. Complications include central nervous system impairments and cardiovascular problems.

FAQs

What is a catalytic converter made of?

Catalytic converters are usually made from platinum or another similar metal, such as palladium or rhodium.

Why do people steal catalytic converters?

People steal it partly due to the rising prices of precious metals used in the converter, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

Do all cars have a catalytic converter?

Most petrol cars and diesel cars have been equipped with catalytic converters since 1992 and 2001, respectively.

Wrap Up

So, that was all about the catalytic converter. It's a device that helps you to take fresh air while keeping the environment at ease.

Throughout the article, I tried to illustrate a different aspects of the device.  I hope this article has added some value to the disposal of your knowledge.

Nevertheless, if you got any questions regarding the Catalytic Converter, leave a comment below.

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