John J. Mooney, a native of the proud state of New Jersey, is the recognized co-inventor of the 3-way catalyst that has been on US cars since 1976. It was developed in the 1960s and 70s and has been successfully used to control the emissions levels of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides in 31 years of auto production sold in the US and now other countries. The impact of the "3-way cat" is impressive. In combination with an oxygen sensor and fuel injection and the removal of leaded gasoline, it has helped keep air in developed countries from becoming substantially worse than it currently is.
The continuing problems we have in air pollution today are the result of the large increase in auto vehicles use. If we drive enough miles in clean vehicles, we eventually end up with dirty air. For instance, in 1965 there were about 92 million registered vehicles. In 1995 we were up to 193 million, and now in 2007 we are above 230 million registered vehicles. Think what that would be like without the 3 way cat. Think Beijing. No wonder the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) regards the 3-way cat as "one of the 10 most important inventions in the history of the automobile."

I recently heard Mr. Mooney speak at the 2007 NJ Institute of Technology graduation ceremonies where he was awarded a Ph.D. in Science, Honoris Causa, for this achievement. He then relayed a story about the early testing of the catalyst. His team drove 50,000 miles around Newark Airport as an endurance test. That is about 10,000 times around in those days. This is a reminder that engineering is hard work.

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