This is the first time a catalyst material has been made from single, nanosized (<5 nm) catalyst precious metal particles embedded in fixed positions. In automotive catalysts, precious metals promote chemical reactions that purify exhaust gases on their surfaces. In conventional catalysts, precious metals such as platinum and palladium with diameters over 10 nm adhere to a base material. Exposure to exhaust gas heat causes the metals to agglomerate into larger particles. This reduces the catalyst's effective surface area and catalytic activity.
To maintain efficient purification performance a significant amount of the costly precious metals must be used. In contrast, with single nanosized precious metal particles there is no agglomeration and the amount of platinum and palladium used in three-way catalytic converters can be reduced by 70 to 90%. Moreover, the single-nanotechnology catalyst reportedly maintains the same level of purifying efficiency, with minimal deterioration over time even under the harshest operating conditions.