Tests suggest the new prototype converter -- the component in a vehicle's exhaust system that eliminates some harmful emissions -- could reduce fuel consumption in a standard vehicle by up to three percent and deliver environmental benefits by reducing the amount of CO2 that each vehicle emits, the university reported Tuesday.
The new design uses up to 80 per cent less rare metal, researchers said, which could significantly reduce costs for vehicle manufacturers.
A conventional catalytic converter is a ceramic block, which is honeycombed with microscopic channels that are coated in a rare metal such as platinum.
Imperial College researchers said they've improved an existing manufacturing process to improve the structure of the microscopic channels, increasing the surface area and enabling the rare metal in the device to be distributed more effectively so that less metal is used.
"Catalytic converters are the most important component in a vehicle for controlling exhaust emissions," lead researcher Benjamin Kingsbury said. "Yet their design has not changed since they were first developed in the 1940s."
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