TOKYO -- Panasonic Corp. has developed a catalyst to clean diesel exhaust that uses about 80 percent less platinum than standard catalysts and uses less energy.
The key to the technology is using an alkali-metal compound, instead of platinum, to coat the filter that traps and burns particulate matter in the tailpipe.
Doing so allows Panasonic to slash the cost of the component because it requires about 80 percent less platinum, Kiyonori Itou, president of Panasonic Ecology Systems Co., the subsidiary that developed the technology, said in a June 22 roundtable.
Automakers are looking to cut platinum content in their cars amid rising prices for precious metals. The platinum in a standard catalytic converter can cost $250 to $300, Itou said.
Panasonic uses a compound of four alkali metals. The company wouldn't identify them, but the metal group includes such elements as lithium, sodium and potassium.
Its technology also consumes less energy because it treats exhaust fumes at a temperature 20 percent lower than typical catalysts. Panasonic says its device has a lifespan similar to that of current catalysts.
The new catalyst is Panasonic Ecology Systems' first foray into the automotive sector. It has shipped samples to about 10 carmakers and suppliers in Japan and Europe.
The company aims to bring the product into mass production in 2012 and reach global sales of ¥20 billion, or about $220.6 million at current exchange rates, in 2018.