A catalytic converter is a vehicle emissions control device that converts toxic pollutants in exhaust gas to less harmful pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction (oxidation or reduction).
Catalytic converters are used with internal combustion engines fueled by either petrol (gasoline) or diesel—including lean burn engines. The first widespread introduction of catalytic converters was in the United States automobile market. Manufacturers of the 1975 model year equipped gasoline-powered vehicles with catalytic converters to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter exhaust emissions regulation.
These “two-way” converters combined carbon monoxide (CO) with 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.
Although catalytic converters are most commonly applied to automobile exhaust systems, 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 health and safety regulations.