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Who invented the catalytic converter, why is it toxic and what is it worth?


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Who invented the catalytic converter, why is it toxic and what is it worth?

The catalytic converter was invented by a French mechanical engineer and expert in catalytic oil refining in the Fifties. Eugene Houdry was apparently living in Los Angeles in the USA at the time and it seems that even back then, air pollution was starting to become a problem in the City of Angels.

Houdry was so worried about the smog he decided to found his own company, Oxy-Catalyst and first developed catalytic converters for large chimneys and pipes. Then he began making them for warehouse fork lifts using low-grade unleaded fuel before finally he started developing them for gasoline engines used on cars.

But it was not until emission controls began to be taken more seriously that catalytic converters were adopted in the USA before being used in Europe. The first car to go in production with a catalytic converter was in 1973 although they became widespread soon after in the USA as car manufacturers had no choice but to comply with the Government’s new strict rules. The converter basically converts toxic pollutants in exhaust gas to less toxic pollutants.

Two-way catalytic converters combine carbon monoxide (CO) with unburned hydrocarbons to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20) and then, three-way converters soon followed that also reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

When you scrap your car, the catalytic converter will be removed during the scrap car process and if fully in tact is classed as controlled waste. If it is open and any materials are exposed it is considered hazardous and will be sent to hazardous waste.

This is because they contain precious metals such as Platinum, Rhodium and Palladium – these sit in the central chamber of the catalytic converter - and during use come into contact with pollutants. They are also used in electrical components, jewellery and even some medicines.

Catalytic converters contain toxic materials so they have to be recycled by specialists who have the correct recycling and safety equipment and only by an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). For further reading see How Safe Is It To Scrap Your Car. The catalytic converter will be removed by the ATF along with many other items such as the car battery.

Then it will be passed to a specialist recycling company to extract the metals and recycle the metal container. Because of the precious metals that catalytic converters contain, it means they are expensive, so you can expect a good scrap value if you are scrapping a car.

You can get a value for your scrap car today by simply completing our 30-second valuation form. Scrap your car to Sell Your Jamjar today.   

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