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Catalytic Converter washcoat

X-ray tomography image of a washcoat interface.

The catalytic converters on cars, lorries and diesels massively reduce pollution – but they are extremely costly to manufacture due to the precious metals they contain, mainly platinum but palladium and rhodium are also used. This growing industry is expected to reach 55.16 Billion USD by 2021.

The 3DX x-ray system can substantially reduce manufacturing costs – and boost the efficiency of the catalytic converter! This will help meet the increasingly stringent vehicle regulations and emission standards that are being imposed worldwide.


Catalytic converters transform the toxic by-products of an internal combustion engine into far less hazardous substances, producing cleaner emissions.  The way they do this is essentially simple, but has problems.

The converter is a honeycomb filled cylinder through which the exhaust gasses pass.  A catalyst, e.g. platinum, needs to be spread in a series of very thin and very even layers across the extremely large internal surface area of the honeycomb to maximise contact with the emissions.  These coatings are known as washcoats and are critical.  They allow an high-temperature catalysing redox reaction to take place, fuelled by the petrol, diesel (or even kerosene) which converts unburnt fuel to less harmful by-products.

The problem is that the washcoats need to be both very thin (to reduce costs) and very even (to boost efficiency) – and all this needs to be produced inside a honeycomb – so you can’t see or measure them properly using traditional methods.

Damage in animated catalytic converter

Damage in catalytic converter

At 3DX-RAY we developed the x-ray technology needed to check the quality of the washcoats of a catalytic converter.   This powerful laboratory tool allows users to see internal features and defects non-destructively, it analyses and feeds back trends in the manufacturing process.  This reduces wastage, minimises scrap and optimises the application of expensive materials.

Rapid feedback from this industrially robust system can be used to control the manufacturing processes.  Where required it can be tailored to meet bespoke application requirements and it offers optional robot compatibility and PLC control.

The MDXi x-ray systems from 3DX-RAY can measure both substrate coatings and multiple washcoats, allowing you to identify artefacts and defects (distributions, overlaps and voids). Best still, this is done in real time, providing inspection at full production line speed.

To see the article “Car emissions are an issue of reform – Catalyst-based reformer could contribute to emissions reduction” in the July 2017 issue of the engineer click here

To read the entire issue of the July 2017 issue of the engineer click here

To download our datasheet on catalytic converter inspection click here