Device eliminates 93 percent of lawnmower pollutant

Jul 07, 2014
This is the device, with the stainless steel mesh filter and catalyst support structure detached. Credit: UC Riverside

A team of University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students have won an EPA student design contest for a device they created that curbs harmful pollutant emitted from lawnmowers by 93 percent.

The students developed the – an "L" shaped piece of stainless steel that attaches to the lawnmower where its muffler was – because small engine devices produce significant harmful emissions. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a gasoline powered lawn mower emits 11 times the air pollution of a new car for each hour of operation.

The grey piece is a metal mesh filter to remove particulate matter and the white piece is the catalyst support structure.

The students' device has also fits in with UC President Janet Napolitano's recent announcement to make the University of California system carbon neutral by 2025. With that in mind, employees responsible for maintaining the lawns at UC Riverside have agreed to pilot the students' device. That will likely start in the coming months.

The team, which calls itself NOx-Out, believes there is a market for the device for lawnmower manufacturers and current lawnmower owners, especially operators of landscape companies, who could retrofit their existing gasoline-powered lawnmower. The device has the added benefits of reducing noise from the lawnmower and the smell of gasoline.

The students – Timothy Chow, Brian Cruz, Jonathan Matson and Wartini Ng, all of whom just graduated – won a phase one grant of $15,000 as part of the EPA's P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition. Next year a new group of students – Anna Almario, Priyanka Singh and Alyssa Yan – will take over the project and compete for a $90,000 phase two grant.

The device created by the student team is being attached to a lawnmower. Credit: UC Riverside

All the students have been advised by Kawai Tam, a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering, Phillip Christopher, an assistant professor of chemical and , and David Cocker, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering.

The student team that just graduated inherited the project from another team of students that started it before graduating in 2013. They were: Joshua Callihan, Rosalva Chavez, Jonya Blahut, Risa Guysi and Holly Clarke.

That team won two first place awards in 2013 at the WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development competition in Las Cruces, N.M. It's run by the Institute for Energy & the Environment (IEE).

When they tested the device it reduced the following harmful pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO) by 87 percent; nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 67 percent and particulate matter (PM) by 44 percent.

The device can be thought of as a three stage system. First, a filter captures the harmful pollutants. Then an ultra-fine spray of urea solution is dispersed into the exhaust stream. The urea spray primes the dirty air for the final stage, when a catalyst converts the harmful nitrogen oxide and ammonia into harmless nitrogen gas and water and releases them into the air.

The team that just graduated improved the original device in several ways:

They added a honeycombed substrate that solidifies the catalyst. Originally, the catalyst was in a powder form and was prone to blowing out when the lawnmower was being used. Harmful emissions will likely be further reduced because they will have more contact with the substrate. They changed the design of the device so it is essentially one piece of L-shaped stainless steel, instead of several pieces connected through fittings. Also, the new device doesn't stick out as far off the lawnmower. They eliminated the paper-thin quartz filter and replaced it with a filter that should far outlast the quartz version. They added a muffler for sound reduction.

They expect the device would sell for about $30.

The incoming team will work to further improve the device. Possible areas for refinement including scaling it up so that it could be used with rider lawnmowers and develop a way to insulate it.

Explore further: Cleaning air with roof tiles: Titanium dioxide coating removes 97 percent of smog-causing nitrogen oxide

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Students cut grass with robotic-controlled mower

May 31, 2007

Cutting the lawn has taken on significant importance for a group of Wright State University students. The 11-member team is entered in the Fourth Annual Institute of Navigation (ION) Autonomous Lawnmower Competition hosted ...

Researcher develops portable device to monitor air quality

Jun 24, 2014

Andy Zhang, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology, and his students at City Tech designed a portable device called AirCasting that monitors air quality and transmits the data to a smartphone ...

Recommended for you

Comfortable climate indoors with porous glass

6 hours ago

Proper humidity and temperature play a key role in indoor climate. In the future, establishing a comfortable indoor environment may rely on porous glass incorporated into plaster, as this regulates moisture ...

Crash-testing rivets

6 hours ago

Rivets have to reliably hold the chassis of an automobile together – even if there is a crash. Previously, it was difficult to predict with great precision how much load they could tolerate. A more advanced ...

Customized surface inspection

6 hours ago

The quality control of component surfaces is a complex undertaking. Researchers have engineered a high-precision modular inspection system that can be adapted on a customer-specific basis and integrated into ...

Sensors that improve rail transport safety

7 hours ago

A new kind of human-machine communication is to make it possible to detect damage to rail vehicles before it's too late and service trains only when they need it – all thanks to a cloud-supported, wireless ...

Tiny UAVs and hummingbirds are put to test

23 hours ago

Hummingbirds in nature exhibit expert engineering skills, the only birds capable of sustained hovering. A team from the US, British Columbia, and the Netherlands have completed tests to learn more about the ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

h20dr
4 / 5 (5) Jul 07, 2014
"Then an ultra-fine spray of urea solution is dispersed into the exhaust stream."

Hmmmmm.... No details about that, of course...
Shootist
1 / 5 (8) Jul 07, 2014
Can they fit one to all the volcanoes and smokers and petroleum seeps and tar pits? They dump, what ten?, fifty? one hundred? orders of magnitude more Scheiße into the air every day than lawnmowers have since the internal combustion engine was invented.

That might actually be worthwhile. Idiots.
JohnGee
1.8 / 5 (4) Jul 07, 2014
DA POLAR BERAS WILL BE FEIN DUHRHR
supamark23
5 / 5 (9) Jul 07, 2014
Can they fit one to all the volcanoes and smokers and petroleum seeps and tar pits? They dump, what ten?, fifty? one hundred? orders of magnitude more Scheiße into the air every day than lawnmowers have since the internal combustion engine was invented.

That might actually be worthwhile. Idiots.


Have you always been this stupid or did you have to work at it? In what universe is removing pollution a bad thing? Not even talking about CO2 or AGW, just particulate and other pollutants. Why don't you take your moronic troll routine somewhere else and stop polluting physorg?
Doug_Huffman
4 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2014
"Then an ultra-fine spray of urea solution is dispersed into the exhaust stream." Hmmmmm.... No details about that, of course...
In knowledgeable circles the urea solution is known as Diesel Exhaust Fluid and AdBlue technology. Urea and water DEF heated decomposes to NH3 and CO2, engine NOx and NH3 decompose to N2 and H2O.

All OTR diesels have been backfitted to AdBlue and get about 10K miles per gallon. Automobile diesels >2 L are now built with AdBlue and Diesel Particulate Filters - DPF.

My 11 y.o. 1.9 L VW ALH TDI diesel gets 50+ mpg reliably.


Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2014
Have you always been this stupid or did you have to work at it?
In what universe is removing pollution a bad thing? Not even talking about CO2 or AGW, just particulate and other pollutants. Why don't you take your moronic troll routine somewhere else and stop polluting physorg?
Modus ponens pollution. "One man's poison is another man's food." (Veda, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 1)
bertibus
4.7 / 5 (3) Jul 08, 2014
Great news.
Hopefully they, or another group can also work on the noise those things make..
antigoracle
1 / 5 (3) Jul 08, 2014
Have you always been this stupid or did you have to work at it? In what universe is removing pollution a bad thing? Not even talking about CO2 or AGW, just particulate and other pollutants. Why don't you take your moronic troll routine somewhere else and stop polluting physorg?

Wow!!
If only they could develop one for AGW Turds like you. Imagine how much better this site would be.