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‘Smog-Eating’ Radiator Tested : NEXT L.A.: A look at issues, people and ideas helping to shape the emerging metropolis.

Six automotive engineering students are driving local freeways this summer testing a new system that could turn motor vehicles into “smog eaters.”

New Jersey-based Engelhard Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have joined to test PremAir--a platinum-based coating that is applied to radiators. The testing is in preliminary stages, but Engelhard Corp. hopes to prove that when air passes through the radiator, the pollutant ozone is converted into oxygen.

If the technology works, it could help reduce the Los Angeles region’s most prevalent air pollutant. But one drawback is that the cars would only “eat” ozone immediately around them, and ozone is mostly found miles away from freeways since it is formed by a chemical reaction between two other pollutants.

The students will drive around Southern California in cars outfitted with the radiators for two months.

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