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SCR = Selective Catalytic Reduction, DEF = Diesel Exhaust Fluid

Some new terms explained.

How the new Duramax meets new emissions standards

The new 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 turbocharged diesel will employ an aftertreatment system to help comply with 2010 federal regulations to reduce nitrogen-oxide levels in diesel emissions by more than 80 percent compared with the previous standard. The GM aftertreatment system is a three-stage process; a key component is the use of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF).

Injection of DEF to reduce NOx is a proven technology that’s been used throughout the automotive industry. Unlike other solutions used to control NOx, the DEF system allows the diesel engine to run at its optimum range in terms of fuel mixture. Some systems require the engine to run richer – which can be harmful to diesel engines – in order to control the NOx.

Step One: Cleaning and Heating – The first step in cleaning the diesel exhaust occurs when the exhaust stream enters the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC). The role of the DOC is twofold. First, it converts and oxidizes hydrocarbons into water and carbon dioxide. This conversion happens at about 250 degrees Celsius.

Second, the DOC is used to provide and promote heat, using specific engine management strategies, into the exhaust system. Through appropriate thermal management, this heat increases the conversion efficiency of the downstream subsystem(s) in reducing emissions.

Step Two: Knocking Out the NOx – The next step in the process is what’s known as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). In this process, the NOx in the exhaust stream is converted into water and inert nitrogen, which is present in the atmosphere and harmless. Before the exhaust gas enters the SCR chamber, it is dosed with DEF, an aqueous solution that is approximately 67.5 percent water and 32.5 percent pure urea.

When heated, the DEF splits into ammonia and carbon dioxide. These molecules are atomized, and vaporized, then enter a mixer that resembles a corkscrew. This twist mixer evenly distributes the ammonia within the exhaust flow. The ammonia enters the SCR module, which contains a catalyzed substrate, and through chemical reactions combines and converts the NOx and ammonia into the harmless inert nitrogen and water. Dosing occurs between 200 and 500 degrees Celsius.

Step Three: Scrubbing Away the Soot – The final part of the cleansing system for the diesel exhaust gas involves the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). The DPF traps any remaining soot, which is then periodically burned away, known as regenerating, when sensors detect the trap is full. The regeneration process sees temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Celsius to burn away soot.