CORDIS - EU research results

NOx-Mitigation Technology for Retrofitting Diesel Engines

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NOXTEK (NOx-Mitigation Technology for Retrofitting Diesel Engines)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2018-07-31

The current concerns involving the significant health effects of vehicle emissions and the recent scandal around manipulated diesel engine emissions in passenger cars shows that there is a clear need for disruptive and timely solutions. A group of nitrogen oxides (nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)), also known as NOx, played a paramount role in the diesel scandal, with NOx limits set by North American and EU legislation being exceeded multiple times in real environment test-drives. NOx contributes significantly to air pollution, leading to the formation of smog, acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer. It also reacts to form nitrate particles, acid aerosols, as well as NO2, which causes chronic respiratory problems. Researchers argue that in the EU, Norway and Switzerland alone 4500 people die annually due to excess NOx emitted by cars. A recent study published in Nature argues that the eleven biggest diesel engine vehicle markets (light duty and heavy duty) were responsible for around 38000 particulate matter and ozone-layer related deaths globally in 2015. But NOx emissions are not only a challenge for the automotive industry as The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is considering tightening legislation on vessel emissions – a majority of which are powered by diesel engines. In addition, the so-called peaking power plants – perceived as the key transition technology for the rollout of renewable energies in Europe – run on large diesel engines. Finally, many off-road heavy-duty vehicles run on diesel engines. All of these vehicles, vessels and power plants cannot be phased out overnight. Some European politicians voice ambitious plans to phase-out diesel by the 2040’s, but this still means diesel will accompany our lives in the next 23+ years.

The key challenge is to find efficient, timely and cost-effective solutions to reduce the exposure of pollutant gases to people and to find solutions to meet the ever-tightening regulatory requirements around diesel engines, as a transition technology towards a fossil-fuel-free economy, in Europe and diesel-reliant economies in Asia and Africa.

NOXTEK is a ground-breaking absorbent material with the potential for immediate deployment within vehicle cabin filtration system to have an immediate effect of protecting vehicle occupants from harmful gasses. Furthermore, there is significant potential for utilization within Exhaust Emissions Treatment Systems.
Our short and medium-term priorities are to develop “vehicle cabin filters” with the aim of capturing NOx and other pollutant gases before entering the cabin and therefore reducing the exposure for vehicle occupants.

Further analysis and independent expert opinions have been obtained to augment arguments against perceived weaknesses with our application. This additional evidence is clear and adds significant value to our understanding and patent strategy.

Alsitek has completed in-depth techno economic modelling of the expected supply chain for the manufacture and supply of the filter media, absorbents and assembly of products for the automotive industry. We have identified key risks, determined resource requirements and mapped routes to market. MRL3 has been achieved and planned trials to take us to MRL5.

Phase 1: Develop applications utilising NOXTEK for vehicle cabin filtration.
Phase 2: Develop applications utilising NOXTEK with exhaust emissions treatment systems.
Phase 3: Expand further in larger exhaust emissions treatment and chemical processing emissions treatment.
The SME Phase 1 funding and additional support offered by the programme has assisted Alsitek to develop our strategy for the exploitation of our NOXTEK invention. The first stage of this strategy is the development of a Cabin Air Filters.

Our target is to have 5% of all class D to G vehicles on the road in the EU with a filter containing NOXTEK within 5 years (approximately 6 million vehicles). We expect that this filter will remove up to 90% of NO2 from in-coming air into the vehicle cabin. Current levels of average NO2 whilst driving are approximately 140µg/m3. With a 90% removal rate this will bring average exposure levels whilst driving to 14µg/m3 – well within the WHO guidelines of 40µg/m3 save levels.

Current state-of-the-art filter performance achieves approximately 30% removal. However, the absorptions properties of AC decrease substantially when atmospheric humidity increases and stops above 70%. Secondly the catalytic function of AC on NO2 is noticeably affected during the ageing process of the filter.

This reduction in exposure will have significant health benefits, especially for young children on school commutes when the lungs are developing and NO2 exposure can also be harmful on the cardiology, attention capacity and cognitive function of young children.

The production methods for AC have known high environmental impact. Reducing the pressure on the environment by introducing alterative technology with a far less harmful environmental impact can only have a positive effect. Forest clearance burning for mono-culture planting of coconut plantations was responsible for 40% of the global annual CO2 emissions in 1997. Other environmental issues include loss of key habitats, large scale forest conversion, loss of critical habitats, and severe soil erosion and silting of eco-systems linked to monoculture farming which are irrefutably linked to the 1000% increase in demand between 2008 and 2014.