What Is a Catalytic Converter and How It Works?April 29, 2023
A catalytic converter which is a crucial component of a vehicle’s exhaust system that helps reduce harmful emissions produced by the combustion process in internal combustion engines. Its primary function is to convert toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and unburned hydrocarbons, into less toxic gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor before they are released into the atmosphere.
The catalytic converter is usually positioned between the engine’s exhaust manifold and the muffler. It consists of a metal casing that houses just as a honeycomb-like structure coated with precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium. These metals act as catalysts, promoting the necessary chemical reactions to convert harmful gases into less harmful ones without being consumed.
There are two prime types of catalytic converters used in modern vehicles:
- Two-way catalytic converters: These were commonly used in earlier vehicle models and primarily focused on reducing carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons.
- Three-way catalytic converters: These are used in most modern vehicles and are designed to reduce all three major pollutants—carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and unburned hydrocarbons. They function optimally when the air-fuel mixture in the engine is precisely controlled, usually by an oxygen sensor.
Catalytic converters are crucial in improving air quality and protecting the environment by reducing harmful emissions. In many countries, they are mandatory in vehicles to meet strict emission standards.