Catalytic converters are devices,which use a catalyst to convert three harmful compounds in car's exhaust, into harmless compounds,creating less pollution. The use of a catalytic converter was not mandatory until 1975, when a law was passed which requires all new vehicles to have one. The use of this device reduces ground level ozone which is the biggest cause to smog, myriad respiratory problems, and damage to plant life. Catalytic converters don’t fully function until they are completely heated up which means that a vehicle pollutes most within the first few minutes of start-up. To prevent this, some companies have incorporated heating coils around the converter which will get the converter up to fully operational temperature faster.
The catalytic converter consists of several different components. The first of these components is the substrate which is a ceramic monolith with a honeycomb structure. This device is designed to have a high surface area that will provide support for the washcoat which is one of the other key components. The washcoat is a carrier for the catalytic materials and is used to disperse the materials over the high surface area provided by the substrate. Aluminum oxide, titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, or a mixture of silica and alumina can be used to make the washcoat because they can prevent sintering of the catalytic metal particles at the high temperatures experienced in the converter. The last of the main components is the catalyst itself which is often made out of precious metal such as platinum, Palladium, nickel, iron, manganese, and rhodium. These metals are all used for reduction and oxidation of the potent gasses.
Even though catalytic converters ward off ground level ozone and other pollutants, they do not reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is created as fossil fuels are burns. This excessive amount of carbon dioxide that is being released into the environment is one of the main causes of global warming. It has been stated that the use of a catalytic converter actually attributes more to global warming than a car without one because of their release of nitrous oxide which is about three hundred more times potent than standard carbon dioxide. It is believed that motor vehicles contribute to approximately 50% of nitrous oxide emissions which is why attaches against fuel burning engines all together is under scrutiny when looking at global warming.
Over time, the catalytic converter and it’s interrogate components can become clogged. As a converter clogs, the exhaust is sent back up to the engine which will reduce its performance and can cause serious damage. To determine when the catalytic converter is going bad, sensors are used to read the exhaust after it passes through the converter. If these sensors experience unusual levels of oxygen or flow amount, they will alert the driver by flashing the service engine soon light or some other light in the dash. Replacement of the converter is fairly strait forward since it just lies in between the exhaust. Since the catalytic converter is made using precious metals, it is very expensive to replace. On average, a new converter will cost around $1000 to replace and install. Because of its value, the catalytic converter has become a target of thieves who get under the car and chop them off so that they can salvage the metal inside.
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