Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Atomic Insight May Lead To Cleaner Cars, According To MIT Research

Date:
September 26, 2003
Source:
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Summary:
MIT researchers affiliated with the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment are gaining atomic-level insight into how sulfur in engine exhaust "poisons" advanced catalytic converters, reducing their ability to remove noxious emissions from car engines. Understanding that process is a first step toward preventing it, thereby making viable new fuel-efficient engine designs.

MIT researchers affiliated with the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment are gaining atomic-level insight into how sulfur in engine exhaust "poisons" advanced catalytic converters, reducing their ability to remove noxious emissions from car engines. Understanding that process is a first step toward preventing it, thereby making viable new fuel-efficient engine designs.

"Removing sulfur from fuel is difficult and costly, so we need to develop a sulfur-resistant catalytic converter that will work with the lean-running engines now being designed," said Bernhardt Trout, associate professor of chemical engineering and principal investigator of the work. "Lean-running engines operate with excess air and are highly efficient, which means low fuel consumption and low emissions."

The work focuses on a promising catalytic converter with two components: a platinum catalyst that converts carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in exhaust to carbon dioxide and water, and a barium oxide "trap" that captures nitrogen oxides. The converter thus controls emissions that can harm human health and contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain.

However, with excess oxygen present, sulfur dioxide in the exhaust reacts on the platinum catalyst to form sulfur trioxide. The sulfur trioxide then coats the barium oxide trap, so it can no longer do its job.

"Our goal is to stop the reactions that turn sulfur dioxide to sulfur trioxide but without interfering with the reactions that clean up carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons," said Trout. "That's challenging because all of those reactions involve the same process--adding an oxygen atom to an existing molecule."

Achieving "selective oxidation" is next to impossible using traditional trial-and-error experimentation. So the MIT researchers are using quantum mechanical calculations to determine on an atomic level the reaction process by which sulfur trioxide forms. Calculating the behavior of all electrons during the reactions of interest is a computationally intensive procedure that they perform on supercomputers at the National Computational Science Alliance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Based on their analysis, Professor Trout and his team have developed a series of pictures that show the step-by-step process whereby a single oxygen atom on a platinum surface approaches and eventually joins onto an existing sulfur dioxide molecule to form sulfur trioxide. Other calculations show the energy consumed or released at each step as chemical bonds break or form.

The researchers are now using their new atomic-level understanding to perform larger-scale simulations that can predict how sulfur and oxygen atoms will move, interact and react to form new molecules under realistic conditions. Simulations thus far suggest that oxygen atoms will cluster together--a behavior observed in experimental systems.

Professor Trout and his team are collaborating closely with experimentalists to try to understand the clustering process and whether steps to either encourage or discourage clustering may interfere with the formation of sulfur trioxide.

This research is supported by the Ford/MIT Alliance and the National Science Foundation. Other participants are William Schneider of Ford Motor Co.; Xi Lin (Ph.D. 2003), a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Nuclear Engineering; and Hairong Tang, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "Atomic Insight May Lead To Cleaner Cars, According To MIT Research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030926065833.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. (2003, September 26). Atomic Insight May Lead To Cleaner Cars, According To MIT Research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030926065833.htm
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "Atomic Insight May Lead To Cleaner Cars, According To MIT Research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030926065833.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins