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How does a catalytic converter work?

How does a catalytic converter work?

Suppose a car uses any type of fossil fuel (petrol, diesel, gas). In that case, some harmful emissions are left during the internal combustion process. Those emissions contain a lot of chemical parts, and some of them are extremely dangerous. Of course, not all of them are that hazardous, but some cleaning process is required for those who are.

But this time, we are talking about bad ones: carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and even sulfur particles. They can cause serious health problems or even suffocate you. And we didn’t even talk about the harmful effects of emissions on the environment. Of course, it all looks hazardous now, but there are ways to make them less dangerous. That’s where catalytic converters come to our aid.

Those that we can find inside internal combustion engines are all alike. Inside is a metal casting that looks like a ceramic honeycomb coated with platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These metals perform excellently when oxidation, corrosion, and acid are considered. It means they cannot be affected by bad weather and toxic substances from the car’s internal combustion engine.
All those metals’ primary function is to act as catalysts in a catalytic converter. It can start a chemical reaction without damaging itself. All that structure inside the converter helps to maximize the area where reactions occur. During this process, platinum and rhodium remove atoms from nitrogen oxide molecules. This allows for freeing oxygen from O2 as well. At the end of this process, nitrogen gas (N2) is created.

Meanwhile, catalytic converters use a catalyst that is made of platinum or palladium. Which helps to reduce hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Since the manufacturing process is costly, researchers are still trying to find a way to implement gold into it. It may sound expensive, but it would be a much cheaper process.

In today’s cars, catalytic converters also have sensors that detect oxygen. Most of the time, they are referred to as lambda sensors. They basically control the amount of oxygen that is sent to exhaust. The closer the amount is to the correct one, the more efficient the gas-cleaning process is.

Don’t get us wrong, catalytic converters must be warmed up to work decently. Before it is practically useless. Once the required temperature is reached inside, the converter starts to glow brightly, indicating the start of the gas-cleaning process.

That means the vehicle produces the most toxic substances right at the start. Mostly because converters start to work only after a few minutes. If you care about the environment and are traveling close enough, consider walking or waiting a while to drive away. The same goes for those who keep cars in closed areas, such as garages or underground parking lots. Don’t wait till the vehicle is ready to be moved because that time is hazardous to health. Instead of that, at least drive outside and then wait. Stay safe!