There's a new diesel additive called Envirox that uses cerium oxide as a catalyst. That's the same metal that supports more efficient and expensive platinum in catalytic converters. A company spun off from the University of Oxford called Oxonica has discovered that by breaking the cerium down into nanoparticles of just 5 to 25 nanometers in diameter, the metal turns into a highly active catalyst and can be blended directly into fuel. The result reportedly boosts fuel efficiency five percent and cuts soot emissions up to 15 percent.
Oxonica is securing deals to distribute in Europe and Asia but there may be a problem bringing the product to the United States. The EPA is concerned that cerium oxide nanoparticles would pose a health threat coming out of a tailpipe. Oxonica has already waited a year for registering the additive; a process that usually takes six months.
The story in Technology Review goes into more detail on how cerium improves combustion efficiency and its danger to humans. Looks like nanotechnology is another issue stumping the EPA as it balances health and economic concerns.
[Source: Technology Review]