A catalytic converter is an emissions control device that converts toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas to less toxic pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction (an oxidation and a reduction reaction). Catalytic converters are used with internal combustion engines fueled by either petrol (gasoline) or diesel—including lean-burn engines as well as kerosene heaters and stoves.
The first widespread introduction of catalytic converters was in the United States automobile market. To comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stricter regulation of exhaust emissions, most gasoline-powered vehicles starting with the 1975 model year must be equipped with catalytic converters.
These "two-way" converters combined oxygen with carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbons (HC) to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). In 1981, two-way catalytic converters were rendered obsolete by "three-way" converters that also reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx); however, two-way converters are still used for lean-burn engines. This is because three-way-converters require either rich or stoichiometric combustion to successfully reduce NOx.
Although catalytic converters are most commonly applied to exhaust systems in automobiles, they are also used on electrical generators, forklifts, mining equipment, trucks, buses, locomotives and motorcycles. They are also used on some wood stoves to control emissions. This is usually in response to government regulation, either through direct environmental regulation or through health and safety regulations.
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