A new catalyst has been developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. It can reduce the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions diesel engines from 90%-95%. Integrated Fuel Technologies, Inc. (IFT), a Washington State start-up company with offices in Spokane and Kirkland, has been licensed to produce it.
The technology called Diesel DeNOx Catalyst is wanted to be integrated into the IFT’s existing greenhouse gases emission-reducing products that could be sold to original equipment manufacturers (OEM), said IFT president Robert Firebaugh.
“OEMs like PACCAR, Cummins, Siemens, BASF, Corning and John Deere have expressed an interest in IFT products enhanced with the Diesel DeNOx Catalyst,” Firebaugh said. “These companies want to know if the technology can survive continuous testing.”
“The catalyst can also be easily retrofitted for installation on existing diesel engine vehicles,” said Christopher Marshall, the Argonne chemist who led the development of technology, adding that “there is a potentially large pool of customers for this technology, given the 11 million diesel engines currently on the road.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began implementing on Jan. 1, 2007 more stringent regulations to reduce the release of the smog-causing pollutant by 2.6 million tons a year on a phased-in basis through 2010. Standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are the strictest in the United States. Argonne and IFT aim for the Diesel DeNOx technology to meet CARB standards.
IFT is teaming with Argonne to test the technology’s longevity in real-world use. They want to determine if it can meet a broad array of transportation applications in real-world usage.
The Diesel DeNOx Catalyst is a coating that is applied to a ceramic brick, like a catalytic converter, which is installed in a vehicle’s exhaust system. The DeNOx Catalyst works in bound with the particulate matter (PM) trap’s filter. The PM trap’s filter removes soot from diesel exhaust, which is then processed by the Diesel DeNOx Catalyst to remove NOx emissions.
“The key to the Diesel DeNOx Catalyst technology is the reductant,” Marshall said. “Interestingly, it is the diesel fuel that reduces the NOx to nitrogen, a harmless compound that composes about 72 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. The catalyst achieves such high rates of conversion because of its interactions with the hydrocarbons in the diesel fuel. The reduction in NOx emissions comes as a result of its conversion into nitrogen.”
Moreover, the Diesel DeNOx Catalyst has increased performance in the presence of water vapors. “That characteristic makes it ideal for use in automotive and truck exhaust systems, where water is always present,” Marshall said.
The Marshall and Argonne researchers have also found the Diesel DeNOx Catalyst to be economical to make and use. The technology uses copper and cerium, which are inexpensive. Using diesel fuel as the reductant eliminates the need for onboard storage of compounds like ammonia or urea that existing technologies use as reductants, he said. Compared to existing technologies, Diesel DeNOx reduces the amount of additional weight a vehicle has to carry, allowing for more efficient use of a vehicle’s fuel, Marshall said.
“Furthermore, the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel that will soon be required for off-road use and is now mandated for on-highway use actually extends the life of the catalyst technology, which is poisoned by the sulfur,” Marshall said.
The Diesel DeNOx Catalyst is a low-cost technology keeping in mind the lifetime of the catalyst (about 400,000 miles). A typical semi-tractor trailer or shipping and delivery service truck is driven about 45,000 miles in year, according to the American Trucking Association.