New cheap platinum-free catalyst for diesel engines

Diesel engines are a classic example of good news and bad news. The good news is that diesel engines are much more fuel efficient than petrol engines. The bad news is that they belch out some pretty nasty emissions like nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. The good news is that catalytic converters can scrub those out. The bad news is that last Friday the platinum needed by the converters is selling for US$1,473.10 an ounce. Now the good news is that a team at Nanostellar in Redwood, California, has developed a mineral catalyst that outperforms platinum at a fraction of the cost.

Reporting their findings in the August 17 issue of Science, Cho relates that computer modelling showed that mullite was a cost-effective substitute. Mullite is a silicate mineral discovered on the Isle of Mull, Scotland in 1924. It’s rare in nature, but a synthetic version is produced commercially for use in various porcelains, such as crucibles and heating balls. It has a very high melting point of 1840 C (3344 F) and as a mixed-phase oxide mineral it makes a very attractive catalyst. In addition, laboratory tests indicate that converters using mullite would have 45 percent lower emissions than with platinum.

The new catalyst, called Noxicat, will be developed for commercial use and further work is planned to determine its application in fuel cells.

Source: gizmag.comAdded: 27 August 2012