Catalytic Converter- The Unseen, Unsung Hero of Auto Emissions Control
Automobiles are important but their engines produce large amounts of pollutants.
To help solve this problem, the Federal Government has enacted regulations to restrict the amount of pollution that motor vehicles produce. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has required automobiles to be fitted with catalytic converters since 1975.
What Are Catalytic Converters?
Catalytic converters – also known as “cats”– are devices that reduce the toxicity of pollutants in the exhaust gases of internal combustion engines. As exhaust fumes pass through the honeycomb-shaped matrix of the catalytic converter, chemical reactions convert most of the toxins into non-toxic gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapor.
Catalytic converters are used in the internal combustion engines of forklifts, trains, buses, cars, and other machines that use petrol, diesel, and kerosene.
Since the catalyst contained in catalytic converters do not get used up during the process, it is possible that one catalytic converter can last a vehicle’s lifetime without requiring replacement. However, sometimes converters stop working properly and need to be replaced. A bad or failing catalytic converter can cause a vehicle to have an illuminated “Check Engine” light.
Once removed from a vehicle, the converter can be recycled to recover the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) contained in them, which are platinum, rhodium and palladium.
Recycling of Catalytic Converters
Recycling catalytic converters prevents environmental degradation that is brought about by mining PGMs.
There are companies that specialize in the extraction of precious metals from catalytic converters. John D. Bruno, president of Key Metal Refining LLC says
Platinum group metals are very rare resources. There are only a small amount of them mined every year. South Africa has about 80% of the world’s platinum group metal reserves. Most all the PGMs goes into catalytic converters. The recycling of catalytic converters has grown to where it provides most of the world’s PGMs.
Bruno goes on to say
With the population growing, I think we’d all be choking in our own exhaust fumes if we didn’t have catalytic converters on our vehicles.