Automotive Systems

Formerly Automotive Systems I

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Catalytic Converters


It is impossible to keep carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions at acceptable levels by controlling them in the cylinder without shortening engine life considerably. The most practical method of controlling these emissions is outside the engine using a catalytic converter. The catalytic converter is similar in appearance to the muffler and is positioned in the exhaust system between the engine and muffler. As the engine exhaust passes through the converter, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons are oxided (combined with oxygen), changing them into carbon dioxide and water.

The catalytic converter contains a material (usually platinum or palladium) that acts as a catalyst. The catalyst is something that causes a reaction between two substances without actually getting involved. In the case of the catalytic converter, oxygen is joined chemically with carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in the presence of its catalyst. Because platinum and palladium are both very precious metals and the catalyst must have a tremendous amount of surface area in order to work properly, it has been found that the following internal structures work best for catalytic converters:

  • Pellet type (fig. 4-50) is filled with aluminum oxide pellets that have a very thin coating of catalytic material. Aluminum oxide has a rough outer surface, giving each pellet a tremendous amount of surface area. The converter contains baffles to ensure maximum exposure of the exhaust to the pellets.
  • Monolithic type (fig.4-50) uses a one-piece ceramic structure in a honeycomb style form. The structure is coated thinly with a catalytic material. The honeycomb shape has a tremendous surface area to ensure maximum exposure of exhaust gases to the catalyst.

An adequate amount of oxygen must be present in the exhaust system for the catalytic converter to operate; therefore, a supporting system, such as an air injection system, usually is placed on catalytic converter equipped engines to dilute the exhaust stream with fresh air.

Figure 4-50.—Catalytic converter.
Published by SweetHaven Publishing Services
Based upon a text provided by the U.S. Navy

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