Learn what a Catalytic Converter is

What is the Catalytic Converter?

03 June 2015, 08:02

The catalytic converter is a part of the exhaust which turns harmful emissions generated by the engine into compounds which are not dangerous. Without a catalytic converter, three harmful compounds would be released into the air through the exhaust and could damage the environment and our health.

These substances are hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Hydrocarbons can be released if there is any petrol which has not been burned in the engine. Carbon monoxide is a harmful gas which is produced in the combustion process.

Nitrogen oxides are produced by the heat of the engine; it causes the nitrogen and the oxygen in the air to fuse. All of these substances are inevitable by-products of the working of a combustion engine and in a car which runs on petrol or diesel, there is no way to avoid them being produced. What is avoidable is the release of these chemicals in their harmful form into the atmosphere.

A catalytic converter uses a catalyst to transform these substances into different compounds which do not cause as much damage.

Carbon monoxide is extremely poisonous to any mammal, as when breathed in it can lead to many different respiratory conditions. Nitrogen oxides get into the water cycle and contaminate it to produce acid rain and hydrocarbons are one of the principal causes of smog.

The catalytic converter uses platinum and palladium as a catalyst to provoke a chemical reaction to convert these substances into less harmful ones. Ceramic beads are coated with the catalyst and placed in the exhaust to convert the nitrogen oxides back into their original components: nitrogen and oxygen. The catalyst converts carbon monoxide into the less poisonous carbon dioxide and the hydrocarbons are split up into carbon dioxide and water.

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