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Life Cycle Benefits of Using Nanotechnology To Stabilize Platinum-Group Metal Particles in Automotive Catalysts

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2002 by Shannon M. Lloyd, Lester B Lave, H. Scott Matthews

Due to advances in nanotechnology, the approach to catalytic design is transitioning from trial-and-error to planned design and control. Expected advances should enable the design and construction of catalysts to increase reaction speed, yield, and catalyst durability while also reducing active species loading levels. Nanofabrication techniques enabling precise control over the shape, size, and position of nanoscale platinum-group metal (PGM) particles in automotive catalysts should result in reduced PGM loading levels. These reductions would decrease energy consumption, improve environmental quality, and contribute to sustainable resource usage. We estimate the amount of PGM required to meet U.S. vehicle emissions standards through 2030 based on current catalyst technology. We then estimate the range of PGM that could be saved from potential nanotechnology advances. Finally, we employ economic input−output and process-based life cycle assessment models to estimate the direct and life cycle benefits from reducing PGM mining and refining.