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Can an 82 Year old Hungarian Chemist Cut GHG by Half and Save the World?

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Imagine for a moment a catalytic converter technology necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion by more than half existed now and could be implemented inexpensively today. Results from tests conducted in Germany during the eighties on a "low cost catalyst technology" bring this possibility out of the realm of imagination and into reality.

Dr Ivan Porubszky, Sr,
Over the course of a decade or more throughout the seventies and eighties, Dr Ivan Porubszky, Sr, a professor of Applied Chemistry at the University of Budapest, developed a coating for catalytic converters that not only exceeds California's Ultra-low Emission standards but requires half the precious metal content used today. If the technology works as test results indicate and if it were widely applied to existing catalytic converter substrates, the polar ice caps and the Antarctic ice shelves and Himalayan glaciers might yet be spared.

Enhanced catalytic activity

Hydrocarbon emissions result when fuel molecules in the engine do not burn off entirely during the combustion process.  Catalytic converters use a coatings of catalyzing precious metals, palladium, rhodium and platinum to stimulate a chemical reaction that reduces the toxicity of engine emissions.  These platinum salts are typically baked at a temperature of 550 - on to a honeycomb framework intended to increase the surface area combustion exhaust encounters before exiting the tailpipe or smokestack.

The particle size used in these coatings has a direct effect on surface area exposed to the exhaust.  The larger the particle size the less surface area and though minute to the human eye, smaller particle size can be detected by its darker color. Today's coatings appear a medium to dark gray but Porubszky's coating, which is applied at room temperature, is jet black denoting finer particles and therefore greater surface area.

This enhanced catalytic activity is what enables the reduction in precious metal content. Rigorous testing on a Fiat Ritmo 1.6 I. and LV Jetronic; FTP 75 engine was conducted in Germany. OCETA (Ontario Centre For Environmental Technology Advancement) evaluated the test results and drafted a market implementation strategy.

...a new catalytic converter coating technology which can achieve a dramatic improvement in both performance and cost of the three-way catalytic converter. Examination of the new coating technology according to a methodology equivalent to the North American standard, the FTP (Federal Test Procedure), has yielded high performance for the targeted components for emission reduction.The new catalytic converter technology results for hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide exceed the 1997 California Ultra-low Emission Standards. Because the process implemented with this invention produces an enhanced catalytic activity, the precious metal content can be reduced by at least 50%, and possibly more. The effect of a 50% price reduction would be a 35% reduction in total cost of the TWC.

For the technically inclined view the German test results. The third graph represents results from Porubszky's coating.

Recycling precious metals

Porubszky, 82, still resides in Hungary and has turned his technology over to his son, Ivan Porbuszky, Jr, a mechanical engineer now living in Toronto, Canada. Porubszky, Jr, speaking with a strong Hungarian accent, explains that his father also developed an environmentally benign solvent that will reclaim the precious metals from catalytic converter substrates without damage allowing them to be re-coated and reinstalled.

Rhodium (Rh), platinum (Pt) and paladium (Pd) are today trading at $2,425, $1,850 and $800 per ounce respectively.  According to Platinum Today, 84% of global Rh production, 33% of Pt and 53% of Pd are used in automotive catalytic converters. Anyone who has discovered their catalytic converter has been stolen by metal thieves can attest to their value in the marketplace. If Porubsky's solution works as claimed it will not only save money from smelting and mining operations but could put thousands back to work re-manufacturing used catalytic converters.

Where is the technology today?

Imagine if this technology has been available and in use for twenty five years already. Though the coating attracted the attention of European automakers in the nineties, unfortunately no agreement was reached to license the coating.

Two years ago, Porubszky, Jr, 57, met a Toronto based entrepreneur by the name of David Woods.  They seem an unlikely pair as behind Porubszky's quiet pride in his father's accomplishment and his careful answers about the technology, you can still hear the bitter memories of life growing up in an Eastern bloc Communist country. On the phone, Woods sounds like a cross between Joe Pesci's character Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas and NY gubernatorial candidate, Carl Palladino.

Woods is a fireball of enthusiasm about the potential for the coating to create millions of jobs, drive the market in carbon credits and he vibrates with frenetic energy over the trillion dollar market potential. He believes vehicle manufacturers will be unable to seek relief from stringent emissions standards, forcing them to use the new coating and the coating technology will set the standard for new emissions requirements in the US and Europe. 

In order to protect the coating formula from competitors, he wants to have the coating components mixed at different labs before finally being combined and applied to catalytic converters.

Woods is scrambling to raise the $10 million in cash he says he needs to take the coating through the next phase of tests before commercialization without giving up operational control. He claims to have turned down sizable offers from six large investment groups already because he refuses to relinquish control but is confident the technology will attract the necessary investment to bring it to market.

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Mary Geddry lives and writes in Coquille, Oregon. Her oldest son is a Marine grunt and served two tours in Iraq. Mary is an anti-war activist and CEO of Ingenium,LLC.
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