Offering an alternative to conventional catalytic converters, Nissan Motor Co. plans to introduce a new converter this fall. The company claims this catalyst will cut pollutants and preserve more resources through limited use of platinum and rhodium. Most worldwide precious metals demand comes from the automotive industry, which uses 50 percent of global platinum supply and 80 percent of rhodium for catalyst production. Compared to the average catalyst, this new catalyst is rumored to use half the precious metals, a mere 0.65 grams replacing 1.3 grams per converter.
In a recent article, CanadianDriver explains the benefit: “In conventional catalysts, the high temperatures cause the precious metals to cluster, reducing the exposed metal surface area and leading to less effective emissions cleaning. To compensate, existing converters contain higher amounts of precious metal in order to maintain an efficient level of cleaning,” the site reads.
Basically, the catalyst adds a “wall” to avoid the above-mentioned clustering. While nitrogen oxides (NOx) and non-methane hydrocarbons are always emitted from catalysts, this new catalyst boasts 75 percent fewer than usual. As environmental protection becomes an important selling point in the automotive industry, “Nissan engineers approached the problem from a physical perspective, rather than a chemical perspective, in order to achieve the breakthrough,” Masanori Nakamura, manager of the Nissan Research Center, told CanadianDriver, adding that the concept is similar to “eggs protected in a bird’s nest.”
Although Nissan can take pride in the environmental benefits of their new catalyst, it’s also cheaper for the company to use fewer resources. Despite drastic price drops in the past months, these metals are rarely considered cheap. Since Nissan currently just plans to use the converter in Japanese markets, however, the new converter is unlikely to affect worldwide prices or supply and demand for precious metals.