Catalytic Converter

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 10th gradeA+, November 1996

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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 converter.

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


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. Encyclopedia

i) 'Catalytic Converter.' The World Book

Encyclopedia. 1985 ed.