Particulate emissions from diesel engines could be cut by 80% using a plasma-based catalyst system developed by AEA Technology.
The announcement comes as the car industry steps up its preparations for the introduction of tighter European limits on all vehicle emissions in 2005.
The Electrocat system is being tested by London Taxis International, the cab manufacturer, and AEA is looking for a partner to take it into commercial production.
The system uses an electrical current to ionise exhaust gases which then react with organic contaminants, such as particulates, and convert them into carbon dioxide and water. Unlike conventional exhaust catalysts, it is not based on a precious metal and is unaffected by sulphur.
Industry experts point out that such plasma systems are not new, but to date they have been targeted at cutting emissions of nitrogen oxides (Nox) – with only limited success. Electrocat is believed to be the first application of the technology to particulate emissions.
The system requires the fitting of a new dual voltage alternator, which can operate at 12V or 42V. AEA claims the unit is 90% efficient compared with 50% for conventional alternators – an improvement it says can produce fuel savings of 6-7%.
It is believed that the 10% of cars on the road aged 15 years or more are responsible for most harmful emissions. AEA says the system can be fitted even to vehicles of this age and should allow them to comply with the proposed legislation.
`The entire system would cost around £200 to fit,’ said a spokesman from AEA. `We hope to be making money from it by the time the European legislation is introduced in 2005.’
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