Exhaust technology reduces pollutant motor emissions

Exhaust technology reduces pollutant motor emissions

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have developed “CatVap”, a technology to reduce emissions from internal combustion engines. In addition to diesel fuel, the technology can also be used with electricity-based fuels (e-fuels) and biofuels. It is currently being tested on the road for use in commercial vehicles.

The fuel treatment technology CatVap (CATalytic eVAPoration process) is a technology developed and patented by Fraunhofer ISE, which can be coupled between engine and exhaust gas aftertreatment system. The starting point of the technology is the exhaust system, or more precisely, its temperature. CatVap causes the exhaust system to heat up to operating temperature very quickly. This makes it possible to significantly reduce pollutant emissions – especially nitrogen oxides – regardless of the driving cycle. If the interaction between the engine and the heating technology is optimised, the reduction in emissions compared to Euro VI commercial vehicles can be achieved without increasing fuel consumption, the researchers promise. The system can also be used without modifications when e-fuels and biofuels such as hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVO) are refuelled. With these fuels, greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as harmful secondary emissions can be significantly reduced throughout the entire well-to-wheel chain.

Further development with industrial partners

Fraunhofer ISE scientists are collaborating on product development with Albonair GmbH (Dortmund, Germany), a company with expertise in exhaust gas aftertreatment and thermal management. Albonair equipped a medium-duty truck with a CatVap system to enable exhaust gas cleaning even in low-load operation. The system was mounted on the exhaust side after the engine of a truck with a gross vehicle weight of 12 tonnes and showed complete nitrogen oxide reduction in various demanding test drives. Freezing weather conditions and city traffic were extensively considered in these drives.

“If vehicles with internal combustion engines drive at very low speeds and correspondingly low exhaust gas temperatures, for example, today’s Euro VI exhaust gas purification system cannot completely reduce the toxic nitrogen oxide emissions,” explains Florian Rümmele, who is responsible for the technology at ISE. “By equipping the exhaust gas aftertreatment system with CatVap, only twenty seconds of electrical heating are required in a cold start to start the CatVap process, which then exceeds the power of conventional electrical heating by more than 20 times. With the heated exhaust system, all secondary pollutant emissions, such as nitrogen oxide, soot and unburnt fuel components, can be almost completely removed.”

In addition, software for control and data acquisition has been developed by the two partners. The current hardware and software can be used for applications with combustion engines in the medium and heavy-duty truck segment as well as for off-road vehicles or in ships.

Combination with synthetic fuels further improves result

According to the scientists, CatVap now has a high potential to reduce secondary emissions in accordance with the Euro emissions standard planned from 2027 without additional measures. “With the combination of renewable fuels and the CatVap heating technology, it is possible to present – in the overall view with energy supply and use in the vehicle – almost emission-free, combustion-engine mobility. This is why we are developing innovative synthesis routes to synthetic, sustainable fuels in addition to the technology for fuel processing,” states Robert Szolak, Head of Department Sustainable Synthesis Products at Fraunhofer ISE. “We are working on market introduction concepts for such fuels, which typically start from fuel blends. This necessitates the use of robust technologies such as CatVap, which can work with these fuel blends,” says Szolak, explaining the background to the technology, which he played a key role in developing. Together with ambitious truck manufacturers, Fraunhofer ISE and Albonair now want to make the technology ready for series production and commercialise it.

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