Nano in short means very small.
But a nanomaterial developed by researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation (ANSTO) could make a dramatic improvement to air pollution in cities around the world.
The researchers have been working with colleagues in Japan, Turkey and Bangladesh, to develop the nanomaterial that can be used to make markedly more effective catalytic converters for vehicles.
Catalytic converters reduce the pollution from vehicle exhaust by converting toxic gases and pollutants to less toxic pollutants, so the research has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of pollution caused by cars and trucks.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, the research team describes how they created porous rhodium (Rh) on a nanoscale
Lead author Professor Yusuke Yamauchi, an ARC Future Fellow from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) at UOW, said the porous rhodium nanoparticles could dramatically improve air pollution.
‘’At the moment, the conversion rate of our catalyst is three to four times that of a normal catalyst, the efficiency increase is three to four times,’’ Professor Yamauchi said.
Co-author Dr Md Shahriar Hossain, also from AIIM, said the new material could already be used to replace conventional catalytic converters, but the team was looking to develop it further to make it more efficient at converting other pollutants in addition to NOx.
“At this moment, with the conventional catalytic converter we can simply replace it no problem. You can just open the existing filters and put it in - plug and play,” Dr Hossain said.
‘’Another problem is the conversion releases the carbon dioxide as well, which is very bad, so we also want to stop that. We think we can make a hybrid system that can decompose both NOx, SOx (sulfur oxide), and carbon dioxide, so that is the final target.’’
Dr Hossain said he believed the technology could play a big role in reducing air pollution around the world, but saw it as being of particular benefit in South Asia and other parts of the developing world.
‘’In the West, people will be moving more and more to electric vehicles so there won’t be the same problem. But in Bangladesh, in India and elsewhere in South Asia - where already there are enormous problems with smog and air pollution from car exhaust - petrol and diesel engines will continue to dominate for the next 50 or 60 years,” he said.
‘’This catalytic converter could really solve a lot of problems in that part of the world and we have recently started the collaboration with Bangladeshi researchers.’’
This work was partly supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, the UOW-ANSTO 2016 grant, and the AIIM-MANA 2016 grant.
‘’We are also thankful to the World Bank for partial funding of this work through a sub-project of Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP).’’