Recent advances in automotive catalysis for NOx emission control by small-pore microporous materials
The ever increasing demand to develop highly fuel efficient engines coincides with the need to minimize air pollution originating from the exhaust gases of internal combustion engines. Dramatically improved fuel efficiency can be achieved at air-to-fuel ratios much higher than stoichiometric. In the presence of oxygen in large excess, however, traditional three-way catalysts are unable to reduce NOx. Among the number of lean-NOx reduction technologies, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NOx by NH3 over Cu- and Fe-ion exchanged zeolite catalysts has been extensively studied over the past 30+ years. Despite the significant advances in developing a viable practical zeolite-based catalyst for lean NOx reduction, the insufficient hydrothermal stabilities of the zeolite structures considered cast doubts about their real-world applicability. During the past decade renewed interest in zeolite-based lean NOx reduction was spurred by the discovery of the very high activity of Cu–SSZ-13 (and the isostructural Cu–SAPO-34) in the NH3-SCR of NOx. These new, small-pore zeolite-based catalysts not only exhibited very high NOx conversion and N2 selectivity, but also exhibited exceptionally high hydrothermal stability at high temperatures. In this review we summarize the key discoveries of the past ∼5 years that led to the introduction of these catalysts into practical applications. This review first briefly discusses the structure and preparation of the CHA structure-based zeolite catalysts, and then summarizes the key learnings of the rather extensive (but not complete) characterisation work. Then we summarize the key findings of reaction kinetic studies, and provide some mechanistic details emerging from these investigations. At the end of the review we highlight some of the issues that still need to be addressed in automotive exhaust control catalysis.