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Nanotech breakthrough reduces car exhaust pollution

Nanotech breakthrough reduces car exhaust pollution

Image: Tubo escape.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW)—including an ARC Future Fellow—and Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation (ANSTO), working with colleagues in Japan, Turkey and Bangladesh, have developed a nanomaterial that can be used to make markedly more effective catalytic converters for vehicles. Catalytic converters reduce the pollution from vehicle exhaust by converting toxic gases and pollutants to less toxic pollutants, so the research has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of pollution caused by cars and trucks.

The research team created porous rhodium (Rh) on a nanoscale. Rhodium is a chemical element commonly used in catalytic converters to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) in exhaust gases; making it porous increases its surface area, thereby making it more effective. ARC Future Fellow, Professor Yusuke Yamauchi, from UOW, said the porous rhodium nanoparticles could make a dramatic improvement to air pollution in cities around the world. “At the moment, the conversion rate of our catalyst is three to four times that of a normal catalyst, the efficiency increase is three to four times,” Professor Yamauchi said. Professor Yamauchi also said that because rhodium, a rare metal, was expensive, the team was also looking at trialling different alloys to see if they could be of similar efficiency as converters. “Iron and copper are very cheap materials so we will test some rhodium-copper and rhodium iron alloys—if we can get the same efficiency with an alloy and at the same time lower the cost of the material then I think it will be more widely adopted,” he said.

Media issued by the University of Wollongong.

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