Australian engineers have invented the Microwave Emissions Converter, a device that may reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses in vehicles by up to 90% and double as a source of industrial grade diamond.
Professor Elias Siores and Dr. Carlos Destefani of the Industrial Research Institute, Swinbume, carried out research on the development, for which an Australian patent has been granted.
The device, which is about the size of a wine bottle, microwaves the exhaust gas, heating its core to as much as 5000 K, breaking the exhaust gasses down to their basic constituents and creating plasma of free ions.
As the mix cools, the ions recombine to form less harmful substances. ‘Under ideal lab conditions, we get up to a 90 per cent reduction in carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons,’ said Siores.
Reduction levels are the same in vehicles with or without catalytic converters, so that the already reduced harmful emissions from a catalytic converter would be further reduced.
There is, however, a downside to the device in that it increases the emission of carbon particles from the exhaust. To counteract this, the engineers have developed a way of harvesting the carbon and producing industrial diamond from it.
An electrostatic filter lining in the exhaust attracts carbon particles that are collected and used to feed a separate process called microwave plasma spray deposition, in which microwaves heat up and ionise an inert gas such as argon or helium.
The ionised gas reacts with the carbon to create a volatile liquid that is then sprayed onto a glass surface, producing industrial-grade diamond.
The same technology could, say its developers, be used to clean up emissions from factories, chemicals plants and power stations.
‘There are lots of manufacturing processes that give off hydrocarbons. We are going to look at using this technology to reduce these,’ said David Galvin, executive director of the Melbourne based Co-operative Research Centre for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems and Technologies.