Corning Cooks Up Cleaner Catalytic Converters

Reducing emissions from automobiles will help everybody breathe a little easier. A prime target: cold engines. It takes about two minutes for a car's catalytic converter to heat up and begin working. The untreated exhaust that is emitted in the meantime is a major contributor to smog. Now, Corning Inc. in Corning, N.Y., has come up with a way to make catalytic converters much more effective.

In Corning's prototype, exhaust goes into an electrically heated catalyst that starts working within 10 seconds after the vehicle's ignition is activated. Then the exhaust passes through a conventional honeycomb ceramic coated with platinum and rhodium.

Corning says its dual-catalyst system already meets or beats most of California's tough emissions standards that will be phased in beginning in 1994. Still, challenges remain: The converter's need for extra power has to be reduced. And the system--which would add an undetermined amount to a new car's sticker price--must be engineered to survive a minimum of 10 years or 100,000 miles on the road.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.