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GM Ventures portfolio company SDCmaterials secures 1st supply agreement for cost-saving advanced catalyst products for autos

SDCmaterials, a developer of advanced catalyst products based on a novel materials fabrication and integration platform, announced a partnership and formalized a supply agreement with Car Sound, a leading manufacturer of catalysts and catalytic converters for the automotive aftermarket. Investors in SDCmaterials include the venture capital arms of General Motors, Volvo Group, and SAIC Motor as well as BASF Venture Capital.

The automotive catalytic converter, developed in the early 1970s primarily by General Motors and BASF/Engelhard and first deployed in 1975, changes exhaust pollutants into CO2, water vapor and nitrogen. The performance of existing catalyst technology degrades over time as precious metal particles agglomerate and surface area diminishes. SDC’s proprietary technology can both increase surface area of a given quantity of precious metal and reduce its agglomeration over time.

Source: SDCmaterials. Click to enlarge.

For emissions applications targeting precious metal savings, SDCmaterials’ first generation catalyst ingredients are typically demonstrating 40% to 60% metal reduction compared to existing industry catalysts, while maintaining catalytic performance. Early results on the company’s second-generation catalyst ingredients are showing substantial opportunity to push precious metal reductions even further.

Today, a typical original equipment automotive catalytic converter in a gasoline engine contains about $100 in precious metal. The SDC approach could take as much as $60 out of that cost.

If applied across 17 million new vehicles sold annually in the US, the value of the precious metal cost reduction could reach $1 billion in that market alone.

We see this technology as providing a significant savings for customers when applied in broader use. With ever-increasing emission requirements, this could help offset a potential cost increase for customers.

—Jon Lauckner, GM CTO and president of GM Ventures

SDC’s Nano-on-Nano formulation, applied to exhaust-treatment catalysts, requires as little as 40% of platinum-group metals in traditional catalysts, essentially doubling the efficiency of the precious-metal composition.

In addition to the potential for cost reduction, other benefits of SDC’s technology include:

  • Improvements in global air quality.SDC catalyst ingredients enable more pollution reductions at the leading edge of emissions control than would otherwise be possible. They may also enable developing countries to deploy more effective catalysts per value invested per vehicle.

  • Further advancements in automotive fuel economy. Engine designs for fuel economy can result in reduced exhaust temperatures. Catalysts using SDC ingredients perform better at low temperatures compared to conventional catalysts. This may enable deployment of more advanced fuel efficiency technologies.

  • Enhanced precious metal resource and environmental stewardship. Through more efficient utilization of precious metals to treat vehicle emissions, SDCmaterials may, over time, help keep precious metal supply and demand in better balance as automotive unit growth and environmental requirements rise. This, in turn, may over time lessen the environmental impacts caused by precious metal mining. For example, according to Peoples Health Movement – South Africa, each ounce of platinum requires approximately 18 tons of ore extraction, and each kilogram requires 200GJ power consumption and 400M3 of water. This is in addition to SO2 and other air pollutants emitted during platinum mining and refining operations.

SDC’s catalytic ingredients mark the most dramatic shift in the chemical composition of the basic automotive catalyst in some 40 years. With this agreement, we plan to leverage SDC’s novel approach to significantly improve emissions-control performance and reduce costs.

—Peter Nitoglia, Chief Strategy Officer of Car Sound

SDC manufactures its Nano-on-Nano catalyst ingredients via plasma-synthesis technology, which integrates nano-sized precious metal particles onto nano-oxide support particles. When incorporated into traditional catalysts, the ingredients inhibit catalyst-degrading precious-metal migration and agglomeration, creating more stable and predictable emissions control, and allowing the catalyst manufacturer to use substantially less precious metal.

This is an important milestone for SDC as a company. It commercially validates our technology and opens an array of new options for catalyst manufacturers to effectively balance emission regulations, engine performance and exhaust-system costs.

—SDC Executive Chairman William Staron


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