Silver Could Be Low-Cost Substitute for Platinum in Autocatalysts

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A spokesman for Tokyo-based Mitsui Mining told Reuters that Japan, Europe and the United States are all planning to impose tighter regulations on exhaust emissions for heavy equipment, such as that used in construction and farming, beginning in 2012. "We hope this catalyst will be used in these vehicles, and this is the market we are targeting.

Tokyo-based Mitsui Mining & Smelting announced Wednesday that it has developed a new catalyst to clean exhaust gases from diesel engines using silver, rather than the much more pricey platinum.

In a news release, Mitsui claimed that the new catalyst, which has particle matter purification efficiency that currently equals that of platinum now used in autocatalysts, can reduce precious metal costs by 90 percent or more.

A company spokesman told Reuters that Japan, Europe and the United States are all planning to impose tighter regulations on exhaust emissions for heavy equipment, such as that used in construction and farming, beginning in 2012. "We hope this catalyst will be used in these vehicles, and this is the market we are targeting."

Platinum demand from automakers for catalytic converters is increasing due to strong sales of light-duty diesel vehicles in Europe. Platinum and increasingly palladium are used in autocatalysts to reduce carbon monoxide and particulate emissions.

Previously, silver has not been used in autocatalysts because of its poor heat resistance. But Mitsui Mining said it has succeeded in making silver withstand heat of up to 800 degree centigrade by adding metal composite oxide.

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