Molecular hydrogen (H2) emissions and their isotopic signatures (H/D) from a motor vehicle : implications on atmospheric H2

M.K. Vollmer, S. Walter, S.W. Bond, P. Soltic, T. Röckmann

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Molecular hydrogen (H2), its isotopic signature (deuterium/hydrogen, δD), carbon monoxide (CO) and other compounds were studied in the exhaust of a passenger car engine fuelled with gasoline or methane and run under variable air-fuel ratios and operating modes. H2 and CO concentrations were largely reduced downstream of the three-way catalytic converter (TWC) compared to levels upstream, and showed a strong dependence on the air-fuel ratio (expressed as lambda, λ). The isotopic composition of H2 ranged from δD=-140‰ to δD=-195‰ upstream of the TWC but these values decreased to -270‰ to -370‰ after passing through the TWC. Post-TWC δD values for the fuel-rich range showed a strong dependence on TWC temperature with more negative δD for lower temperatures. These effects are attributed to a rapid temperature-dependent H-D isotope equilibration between H2 and water (H2O). In addition, post TWC δD in H2 showed a strong dependence on the fraction of removed H2, suggesting isotopic enrichment during catalytic removal of H2 with enrichment factors (ɛ) ranging from -39.8‰ to -15.5‰ depending on the operating mode. Our results imply that there may be considerable variability in real-world δD emissions from vehicle exhaust, which may mainly depend on TWC technology and exhaust temperature regime. This variability is suggestive of a δD from traffic that varies over time, by season, and by geographical location. An earlier-derived integrated pure (end-member) δD from anthropogenic activities of -270‰ (Rahn et al., 2002) can be explained as a mixture of mainly vehicle emissions from cold starts and fully functional TWCs, but enhanced δD values by >50‰ are likely for regions where TWC technology is not fully implemented. Our results also suggest that a full hydrogen isotope analysis on fuel and exhaust gas may greatly aid at understanding process-level reactions in the exhaust gas, in particular in the TWC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5707-5718
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric chemistry and physics
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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