Environment Nanotech breakthrough reduces car exhaust pollution

Nanotech breakthrough reduces car exhaust pollution

A nanomaterial that can be used to make more effective catalytic converters for vehicles has been developed by researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation (ANSTO), working with colleagues in Japan, Turkey and Bangladesh.

The nanomaterial would improve the efficiency of catalytic converters — which change toxic exhaust pipe gases into less toxic pollutants — by up to three to four times.

The research team successfully created a form of rhodium — a common chemical used in catalytic converters — that has more surface area and is more effective

Professor Yusuke Yamauchi, an ARC Future Fellow from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) at UOW said this form of rhodium nanoparticles could make a dramatic improvement to air pollution in cities around the world.

“At the moment, the conversion rate of our catalyst is three to four times that of a normal catalyst,” Professor Yamauchi said.

Dr Md Shahriar Hossain, also from AIIM, said the new material could already be used to replace conventional catalytic converters, but the team was looking to develop it further to make it more efficient at converting more pollutants.

“At this moment, with the conventional catalytic converter we can simply replace it no problem. You can just open the existing filters and put it in — plug and play,” Dr Hossain said.

Because rhodium, a rare metal, is expensive, the team is also looking at trialling different alloys to see if they can be of similar efficiency as converters.

“Iron and copper are very cheap materials so we will test some rhodium-copper and rhodium iron alloys – if we can get the same efficiency with an alloy and at the same time lower the cost of the material then I think it will be more widely adopted,” Professor Yamauchi said.

Dr Hossain said he believed the technology could play a big role in reducing air pollution around the world, but saw it as being of particular benefit in South Asia and other parts of the developing world.

“In the West, people will be moving more and more to electric vehicles so there won’t be the same problem. But in Bangladesh, in India and elsewhere in South Asia – where already there are enormous problems with smog and air pollution from car exhaust – petrol and diesel engines will continue to dominate for the next 50 or 60 years,” he said.

“This catalytic converter could really solve a lot of problems in that part of the world.”

Read more about this important development hereStory credit: University of Wollongong newsroom.

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