Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of New Mexico and Washington State University scientists have developed the catalyst that can withstand the high temperature and transform pollutants at near room temperature, an important development for decreasing pollution in modern cars.

From the 1970s, catalytic converters are used in the U.S. as the source to clean the pollutants from the vehicle exhaust. In the catalytic procedure, rare metals like platinum are used in the chemical reaction for converting carbon monoxide and the pollutants to water, nitrogen and non-toxic carbon dioxide.

As cars are becoming more fuel-effective, and use less energy. And the temperature of exhaust gases is less, making it harder to clean the pollutants. On the other hand, the U.S. Department of Energy is setting the target of eliminating around 80% of toxic emissions at around 160°C or less.

The catalysts are performing at low temperatures surviving below harsh conditions experienced during operation.

Emiel Hensen, Professor of Catalysis at the Eindhoven University of Technology claimed that “The catalyst problem has increased paradoxically as cars have become better and more efficient”.

Therefore, the industry is struggling with expensive metals require for catalysis. For example, platinum, simplifies a chemical reaction for the processes and commonly used products costing around USD 900 per ounce.

The researchers developed the catalyst based on the initiation of single atoms of platinum maintained on cerium oxide. The catalyst performs the current technology on reducing the amount of platinum required on lowering the total costs.

Abhaya Datye, Professor at UNM’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering commented that “The industry wants to make use of every single atom of the precious metals, which is why single-atom catalysis has attracted increased attention”.

Current work

In the current work, scientists first made sure that their catalysts were stable, receiving platinum ions on cerium oxide support at high temperatures. The method of synthesis caused the platinum atoms to powerfully bond to the support. They activated the catalyst in carbon monoxide at around 280°C.

Yong Wang, Voiland well-known professor in Linda and Gene Voiland School of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at WSU claimed. “To our surprise, we discovered that the high-temperature synthesis made the ceria more easily reducible. Allowing it to provide a key ingredient — oxygen — to active sites”.

The activated oxygen is having the potential of removing pollutants at near room temperature at platinum sites.

Wang comment

Wang commented that “This research directly addresses the 150-degree challenge identified by the U.S. Department of Energy and by automobile companies”. “The discovery of oxygen activation at near room temperature is useful. And this finding could have a significant impact on the technology of exhaust emission control”.

Scientists are now planning to study the performance of single-atom catalysts with the pollutants and organic compounds. The working funds by U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences and Netherlands Research Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion.