Machine Design

New way to cut diesel emissions: Plasmatron reformer

Something called a plasmatron reformer could significantly reduce the nation's oil consumption as well as noxious emissions from a variety of vehicles. This, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The plasmatron is an oil reformer that rides near the engine. It converts various fuels into high-quality, hydrogen rich gas. Adding a small amount of this gas to diesel exhaust is known to help reduce pollutants. When used with an exhaust treatment catalyst on a diesel-engine bus, up to 90% of nitrogen oxides were removed from emissions.

The plasmatron reformer also halved the amount of fuel needed for the removal process. "The absorption catalyst approach under consideration for diesel-exhaust NOx removal requires additional fuel to work," explains Daniel Cohn, head of the Plasma Technology Div. at MIT. "The plasmatron reformer reduced that amount of fuel by a factor of two compared to a system without the plasmatron."

The goal is to have the plasmatron in production and in vehicles by 2010. Currently, Tier-One automotive supplier ArvinMeritor is working with a vehicle concept specialist company to build a proof-of-concept vehicle that incorporates the plasmatron in an internal combustion engine.

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