Issue: Jul 2007


Metal foam for new generation catalysts



Automotive Industries (AI) asked Dirk Naumann, Director of New Technology at CVRD Inco Special Products to share some of the developments in nickel technology

by Lenny Case

A uniform, porous metal alloy foam that is specifically designed for deep bed diesel exhaust treatment systems has been developed by the Canadian CVRD Inco Special Products.

INCOFOAM HighTemp is an ultra porous, nickel-based super alloy foam designed for diesel exhaust systems.
This technology is being applied in a joint venture between CVRD Inco and Süd-Chemie AG, Munich called Alantum. The new company’s focus is providing diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC’s) and diesel particulate filters (DPF’s) based on CVRD Inco’s patented alloy foam technology. Commercial production of the applications is expected to begin in 2008.

CVRD Inco is headquartered in Toronto and has 13,000 employees across the globe. The company nickel sales account for 19% of global nickel sales. The company also produces copper, precious metals, cobalt, sulfuric acid and liquid sulfur dioxide.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Dirk Naumann, Director of New Technology at CVRD Inco Special Products to share some of the developments in nickel technology.

Naumann: We have an exciting portfolio of innovative product solutions for a range of industry needs. These include traditional areas of expertise, such as energy storage, where we have developed materials which significantly increase rechargeable battery capacity, and powder metallurgy, where we have developed specialty nickel powders to enhance their blending characteristics, resulting in improved strength and consistency of alloys used in near net shape part production. Most exciting of all, however, are the advances we have made in alloy foams. These porous metallic structures can be formulated to provide high temperature and corrosion resistance in material formulations optimized for a huge array of different applications. Initially, these foams will change the way in which diesel exhaust emissions are treated, removing hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, but will go on to be used in industrial catalyst, heat and mass transfer applications, among many others.

AI: What role does CVRD Inco play in the development of hybrid engine technology, high performance catalysts and emission controls?

Naumann: A critical technology behind the development and introduction of hybrid systems is the performance of the power storage device. Many technologies come together in such a device but it is clear that many improvements center on the energy storage materials, in terms of their capacity and charge/discharge rates. CVRD Inco has a strong commitment to hybrid engine technologies and is proactively working with specialized battery and car makers to improve performance and build on an increasing environmentally conscious consumer base.

In addition to its contribution to the electrical development, CVRD Inco is cleaning up the engine exhaust. CVRD Inco’s new alloy foam is an ideal carrier for high performance catalysts. As such, it also offers the potential for smaller and more effective NOx reduction components.

AI: Now that CVRD and Inco have merged, have your automotive capabilities been ramped up and how?

Naumann: The use of new, groundbreaking, emission control materials in the rapidly growing diesel exhaust treatment segment has required a focusing of established materials technology platforms and the development of new skills in emission controls. We have worked hard to identify and recruit innovative and open minded automotive engineers and managers who bring a detailed understanding of the application segment and can lead our customer development and support efforts. In addition, we continue to build our relationships with key partners in the supply chain which play a critical role in our business strategy.

AI: What are some of CVRD Inco’s future focus areas?

Naumann: In the emissions control area CVRD Inco’s future focus is on DeNOx applications where the high surface area and good mass transfer properties of the foam can bring volume and system cost reduction benefits to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and NOx adsorption (e.g. LNT) technologies. With appropriate modification to the alloy composition to suit the different operating conditions, gasoline 3-way catalyst substrates also offer potential for the future.


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