Auto Catalytic Converters

Automakers are developing new ways to improve on their catalytic converters that are used to control automobile emissions.

Today conventional technologies utilize precious group metals called PGMs. The PGMs, such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, are the main catalysts used in catalytic converters to control automobile emissions. However, the PGM demand has resulted in higher platinum prices. Also, the need for more PGMs is expected to continue to rise with

• an increase of more diesel cars in Europe,

• higher emission standards for trucks in North America and Japan, and

• an increase of vehicle production and higher emission standards in China and India.

Several nanofabrication companies are now developing nanocom-posites catalysts that will use much lower levels of PGMs in catalytic converters.

Table 6.2 Nanotechnology and the Automobile

Auto Frames

Exhaust System





nanotube alloys

metal oxide

and membrane

will be used to

catalysts will

technology will


reduce harmful

play a major



role in using

materials that

fuel cells that

will provide

will be more

both strength

economical and

and lightweight

cleaner than

materials for

the present

frames, car






Paint and Tires mirrors, and windshields.

Paint and Tires mirrors, and windshields.

Nanopowders and special coatings will increase the durability of paint coatings.

Nanocomposites will be used to build tires that will improve skid resistance and abrasion.

Automobile Paint and Waxes

A new type of finish for automobile bodies offers improved scratch resistance compared to conventional paint finishes. The nanoparticle clear coat lacquer fills in and conceals scratches, which provides a nice glossy coat to the look of the car or truck.

Several nano car waxes are now on the market and they are made with nano-sized polishing agents. The new waxes provide a better shine due to its ability to fill-in tiny blemishes in automotive paint finishes.

The automobile companies are also spending money on nanotechnol-ogy to manufacture better-built vehicles to make them lighter, stronger, safer, and more fuel-efficient. For strength and safety, they are using nanocomposites in the frames, doors, engines, seats, tires, and in other auto parts as well. They are experimenting and testing hydrogen fuel cells to power their vehicles, making them less dependent on petroleum-based fuels and better for the environment.

Aeronautic companies are researching ways to use nanosensors that could be built directly into the body of an aircraft and used to identify mechanical, structural, and electrical problems before they ever arise. Among the more innovative things nanotechnologists envision are self-healing materials and shape-shifting wings.

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