Obituary for a father of the catalytic converter


in Science, The environment

Speaking of automobiles and the environment, it is worth noting that Carl D. Keith died on Friday. He was one of the creators of the three-way catalytic converter: a device that has reduced automobile emissions of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides significantly, improving the air breathed by billions of people around the world.

The advent of catalytic converters also accompanied the decline of leaded gasoline: Thomas Midgley‘s second deadly contribution to atmospheric chemistry, alongside the CFCs that destroy the stratospheric ozone layer.

It is regrettable that so little progress has been made on reducing the environmental impact of automobiles between the 1970s and the present. Hopefully, engineers of Keith’s mold will find themselves empowered by the world’s newfound concern about energy and the environment.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan November 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

There was one absolutely massive improvement in the environmental quality of cars since the introduction of the catalytic converter: closed loop electronic fuel injection control with oxygen sensors and mass air meters. This means cars never need to be tuned, and always run at maximum efficiency and cleanliness. Even if a valve gets burnt, or the engine develops another kind of non-catastrophic failure, a closed loop fuel injection system will keep it running as clean as possible.

Milan November 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

Good to know.

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