LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Researchers have used a swimming pool chemical to remove key pollutants from diesel engine exhaust, and they hope their discovery can be applied to vehicles and power plants to help reduce smog and acid rain.
The inexpensive technique removed more than 99 percent of the nitrogen oxides produced by a diesel engine at Sandia National Laboratories’ Combustion Research Facility in Livermore, Calif., chemist Robert A. Perry and engineer Dennis Siebers said in Thursday’s issue of the British journal Nature.
It will take five years to incorporate the method into practical devices to cut nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel and non-diesel motor vehicles, electric power plants and factories that make plastics, solvents and explosives, said Perry, who invented the process.
″This invention has exciting potential for both pollution control and the greater use of cleaner, efficient diesel engines in industry and on the road,″ said U.S. Energy Secretary John S. Herrington, whose department hired AT&T Technologies Inc. to operate New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories.
The process drew more cautious praise from officials of the automobile industry and California’s air pollution agency.
Harry Weaver, environmental affairs director for the Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association, said in a telephone interview from Detroit that it is not certain motorists would accept the new method, which involves periodically adding cyanuric acid to their cars.
The dry acid, which is added to swimming pools to extend the activity of chlorine disinfectant, was used by Perry and Siebers to convert nitrogen oxides into water and nitrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases.
Nitrogen oxides react in air to help form photochemical smog and the nitric acid component in acid rain.
Perry said he first will try to develop devices to remove nitrogen oxides from diesel truck exhaust because such vehicles can’t use catalytic converters, which the Environmental Protection Agency says reduce about half the nitrogen oxides from non-diesel cars.
Weaver said it also must be demonstrated that Perry’s process doesn’t produce other harmful pollutants or hinder vehicle performance, an assessment echoed by John R. Holmes, research director for California’s Air Resources Board, and Jeff Alson, assistant to the director of EPA’s emission control division in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Perry said the process should boost engine performance and won’t produce other pollutants except for an acceptably small increase in carbon monoxide.
He added that the new process is most likely to be used on coal-fired power plants because the sulfur in coal neutralizes another pollution control technique being tested on natural gas-and oil-fired power plants.