Catalytic combustion is a chemical process which uses a catalyst to speed desired oxidation reactions of a fuel and so reduce the formation of undesired products, especially pollutant nitrogen oxide gases (NOx) far below what can be achieved without catalysts. The process was discovered in the 1970s at Engelhard Corp.
Catalysts may be used to control combustion reactions in the following ways:
- fuel preparation, such as splitting long molecules into shorter ones;
- fuel oxidation to release heat energy;
- the destruction of pollutant gases in the exhaust.
Catalytic combustion was developed by Dr. William C. Pfefferle of Engelhard Corp by 1975. He co-founded a company, Precision Combustion, in 1986 to develop catalytic combustors for gas turbines. Pfefferle holds more than ninety United States patents related to catalytic combustion. Other early work was carried out by researchers at Acurex, Westinghouse, NASA and the United States Air Force. The technique was revisited in the 1990s, leading to two types of catalytic system: Catalytica's fuel-lean approach, and Precision Combustion's fuel-rich approach.
- Worthy, Sharon. Bio-Medicine: Connecticut chemist receives award for cleaner air technology. 23 June 2003. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
- "3.2.2 Catalytic Combustion" (PDF). National Energy Technology Laboratory, USA Department of Energy. Retrieved 23 October 2012.