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Essay/Term paper: Catalytic converters

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Science Research Papers

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Catalytic Converters

Notice when a vehicle drives by nowadays, that it is so much quieter
than those loud oldies that pour out the blue smoke. Ever wonder just what is
underneath a vehicle that makes the new ones so much cleaner. It is called a
catalytic converter. The main function of a catalytic converter is to decrease
pollution emitted from a vehicles exhaust. The concept behind this is to add a
catalyst and force a reaction between the automobile's exhaust and oxygen in the
converter. To see just how this happens let's look inside of a catalytic
A catalytic converter is made up mainly of a mufflerlike chamber which
contains porous, heat-resistant materials coated with either platinum or
palladium. These materials are known as catalysts. A catalyst is an element
which although causing a reaction to occur, does not change at all during the
reaction. This is the idea behind a catalytic converter. The carbon monoxide
gas and hydrocarbons emitted from the engine will travel along the exhaust
system until they reach they catalytic converter. There it comes into contact
with the described catalyst. This forces a reaction between the carbon monoxide
and hydrocarbons with the oxygen inside the converter creating products of
carbon dioxide and water vapor. The reaction which occurs inside the converter
is as follows:

The main compounds involved are carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons
(compounds of hydrogen and carbon), as well as oxygen. When these three are
combined with the provided catalyst, a reaction occurs as above. During the
reaction the oxygen splits apart the carbon monoxide and the hydrocarbons and
allows them to combine with its elements forming the aforementioned products.
The catalytic converter first made an appearance in vehicles in 1975.
The government of the United States of America had established a law controlling
auto emissions. There was one minor detail that was outlined in the use of a
catalytic converter, however. There must only be the use of lead-free gasoline.
The reasoning behind this was that if a leaded gasoline was used the lead would
cover the platinum and palladium pellets rendering them ineffective and thereby
ceasing the reaction to exist. Phosphorus had much of the same effect on the
pellets so the gasoline must contain minimal amounts of it as well.
A catalytic converter can be located in every new vehicle today, unless
the vehicle runs on diesel fuel. In case you were interested in finding the
catalytic converter nearest you, you may want to take a look under the nearest
vehicle. It looks like the muffler only it is a little bit larger and more to
the front of the exhaust system. I advise the unauthorized removal of it,
however, for it may result in the breakdown of our atmosphere.
Threats like these to our atmosphere spurred on the creation of anti-
pollutant components in vehicles and the trend for a pollution free environment
still continues. It will be a great struggle as inventors come up with new and
bizarre ways to keep our atmosphere intact. Already, electric and solar powered
test cars have taken to the highways to test their durability, effectiveness,
and convenience. The catalytic converter was definitely the original spark that
started the new "safe" auto craze, and was an ingenious invention. I'm sure
that as long as I live such inventions will never outlive their usefulness.


A. Texts
i) Chemistry - Heath
pgs. - B. Computer
i) The Internet - "Catalytic Converters"
ii) "Catalysis." Encyclopedia Encarta. 1994 ed. C.
i) "Catalytic Converter." The World Book
Encyclopedia. 1985 ed.


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