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Thar’s Gold in Them...Catalysts?

According to Pankaj Dhingra, president and CEO of Nanostellar (Redwood City, CA; www.nanostellar.com), you can save 20% on the cost of diesel catalyst just by…adding gold. “Platinum currently costs about $1,250 per ounce, with each diesel car using about $250 of the material in its oxidation catalyst and particulate filter,” he says.

According to Pankaj Dhingra, president and CEO of Nanostellar (Redwood City, CA; www.nanostellar.com), you can save 20% on the cost of diesel catalyst just by…adding gold. “Platinum currently costs about $1,250 per ounce, with each diesel car using about $250 of the material in its oxidation catalyst and particulate filter,” he says. Unfortunately, platinum is not only expensive, over time the material sinters together and shrinks the available surface area, “so you end up putting in more material to guarantee compliance over the life of the vehicle.” Palladium, which is about $300 per ounce, can help reduce the need for platinum, but it can reduce the latter’s reactivity if mixed in the wrong proportion. “Gold isn’t as cheap as palladium,” says Dhingra, “but it helps to stabilize the platinum while reducing the overall cost and preserving the reactivity level.”

Dhingra says independent tests have shown that Nanostellar’s NS Gold catalytic alloy increases hydrocarbon oxidation activity by 20% at equal precious metal cost, which means the oxidation activity can be held steady while reducing per car costs by nearly $50 per car. “If you multiply this by the approximately 10 million diesel cars produced each year, that becomes a huge number,” he says, “and it grows even higher if you multiply the 2 million diesel trucks produced by an average savings per vehicle of $250.”

With diesel emission standards tightening worldwide, Dhingra expects demand for NS Gold to increase as OEMs become familiar with its cost savings. Of the $8 billion of platinum mined last year, approximately $4.5 billion went into automotive catalysts. “Since this will get worse as emission standards tighten,” Dhingra says, “there is quite a lot of interest in platinum reduction technologies.” This includes one European OEM validating the material for a 2008 model year change, and a “global U.S.-based OEM that has qualified our material for a 2010 North American application.”—CAS