A team of engineers has managed to identify a material that could reduce the amount of pollution produced by diesel fuel-powered vehicles by 45%. The new material comes from a family of minerals called oxides, and could serve as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to the rare and expensive platinum that is currently used in diesel engines.

University of Texas dallas, diesel fuel, diesel pollution, oxide mullite, platinum, nanostellar, diesel pollution, world health organization

The team, which is part of a company co-founded by a University of Texas at Dallas professor, published their results in the August 17th issue of Science. Dr. Kyeongjae “K.J.” Cho, professor of materials science and engineering and physics at UT Dallas, and his colleagues discovered that when an artificial version of  oxide mullite  was used instead of platinum, pollution was lowered by up to 45%.

“Many pollution control and renewable-energy applications require precious metals that are limited – there isn’t enough platinum to supply the millions and millions of automobiles driven in the world,” said Cho, a senior author of the study and co-founder of the company Nanostellar. “Mullite is not only easier to produce than platinum, but also better at reducing pollution in diesel engines.”

Diesel-powered cars, as compared to gasoline-versions, are cleaner and more efficient. However, the downside is that diesel vehicles produce more nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which are known as NOx pollutants. These were officially classed as carcinogenic in humans by the World Health Organization in June. In essence, diesel engine fumes are as toxic as cigarette smoke and asbestos.

It is Nanostellar’s aim to find catalysts through a material design that would replace platinum in reducing diesel exhaust. So far, they have designed and commercialized a platinum-gold alloy catalyst that is a viable alternative to platinum — though it was still expensive to produce. However, this is all set to change with mullite.

“We’ve found new possibilities to create renewable, clean energy technology by designing new functional materials without being limited by the supply of precious metals,” said Dr. Kyeongjae “K.J.” Cho. “Our goal to move completely away from precious metals and replace them with oxides that can be seen commonly in the environment has been achieved.”

+ University of Texas, Dallas

Via Times of India

Images: eutrophication&hypoxia