ARB Research Seminar

This page updated June 19, 2013

The Three-Way Catalytic Converter: Invention and Introduction Into Commerce

John J. Mooney, President and Founder, Environmental and Energy Technology and Policy Institute, Wyckoff, New Jersey

October 09, 2007
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



The 3-way catalytic converter, first used in California on the 1977 model year Volvo, has achieved a phenomenal success record and continues to develop. It is now used by all carmakers in the world to meet stringent exhaust emission standards for spark-ignited internal combustion engines. By explanation and review of this technology - recounting the internal and external barriers overcome, industry changes required, impacts and results achieved - we can anticipate encountering similar obstacles when regulating global warming gases now under consideration by the California ARB. In fact, it might be said that the system - the 3-way catalytic converter with oxygen sensor feedback and electronic control of air/fuel feed - has laid important groundwork for the control of mobile source greenhouse gases. Success factors are also recounted - the existence of the 1970 Clean Air Act Amendments technology forcing requirement for 90% removal of hydrocarbon, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen, and the requirement for lead-free gasoline - all without need of averaging, trading and banking.

Speaker Biography

John J. Mooney is the President and Founder in 2002 of the Environmental and Energy Technology and Policy Institute. He worked for Engelhard Corporation for 42 years, where he was the Technical Director for automobile catalyst research and technical development. Mr. Mooney has 15 US Patents and is recognized as a co-inventor of the three-way catalyst (TWC), which is now used by all gasoline fueled passenger cars and light duty vehicles in North America, Europe, Japan, and other industrial countries. In his career, Mr. Mooney led the application team for purification of hydrogen utilizing hydrogen palladium diffusion membrane technology. He designed the first VOC destruction catalyst system utilizing Engelhard's unitary ceramic catalyst body and, along with Carl Keith, designed the first successful diesel oxidation catalyst and applied it to a stationary diesel generation set at an Ohio Bell Telephone site

Mr. Mooney also developed the first catalyst systems for wall-flow diesel particle filters. Currently he is working to bring the topic of solid diesel particle emissions into national discussion, especially with regard to solid particles 5 to 500 nanometer in size that penetrate into lung alveoli and of greatest health concern. Mr. Mooney has received numerous professional recognitions including the grade of Fellow by the Society of Automotive Engineers in 1989, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Award for Innovation in 1999, the Clean Air Award by the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association in 2000, he was a Laureate - Walter Ahlstrom Prize of 2001 by the Finnish Academies of Technology, and in 2002, was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George W. Bush and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans. In May 2007 he received a Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from his alma mater New Jersey Institute of Technology, recognizing his contributions.

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