A catalytic converter is a vehicle emissions control device that converts toxic pollutants in exhaust gas to less toxic pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction (oxidation or reduction). Catalytic converters are used in internal combustion engines fueled by either petrol (gasoline) or diesel—including lean burn engines.
The first widespread introduction of catalytic converters was in the United States automobile market. Manufacturers of 1975 model year equipped gasoline-powered vehicles with catalytic converters to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter regulation of exhaust emissions. These “two-way” converters combined carbon monoxide (CO) with unburned hydrocarbons (HC) to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). In 1981, two-way catalytic converters were rendered obsolete by “three-way” converters that also reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx); however, two-way converters are still used for lean burn engines.