Fourth Annual GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering Award Presented to Engineering Team Behind First Mass-Produced Automotive Catalytic Converter
The 2008 GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering Award was presented to a team of engineering, research and development professionals at General Motors (1973-1975), celebrating the 35th anniversary of the creation of the world’s first road-ready catalytic converter emission control system for cars.

This small team of professionals from General Motors and its AC Spark Plug Division – whose work in overcoming the effects of harsh automotive exhaust gas environments led to the creation of the first automotive catalytic converter – also helped start the first “green” movement in the automotive industry. This is the first public recognition of their accomplishment.

GlobalSpec Chairman and CEO Jeff Killeen presented the award to Richard Klimisch, Ph.D., General Motors’ first catalyst expert. Alan Taub, executive director for GM Research & Development, and Robert Stempel, past GM chairman and one of the honorees, recognized the team for their remarkable accomplishment.

About the Honorees
This team of professionals from General Motors conceived, designed, led the assembly, created and tested the world’s first production-ready automotive catalytic converter emission control system, ultimately paving the way for unleaded fuels becoming viable through the adoption of a vehicular catalytic converter.

Although patents for vehicle catalysts and converters went back many years, there were daunting challenges that prevented the introduction of catalytic converters on vehicles. Getting catalysts to work and survive for the life of the vehicle in the hands of the public – with the severe thermal, chemical and mechanical punishment they are subjected to over the life of the vehicle – was the challenge facing the team.

In 1973 the team made the engineering breakthrough – involving the use of pelleted catalyst substrates, not monoliths – that enabled the devices to be suitable for harsh environments like the undercarriages of cars, resulting in the use of catalytic converters in the automotive industry.

The creation of the first automotive catalytic converter 35 years ago resulted in significant health, esthetic and economic benefits to hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe. Catalytic emission control and the resulting widespread use of unleaded gasoline have led to near complete reductions in unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

About the Award
The GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering award is presented annually to a person or group whose singular moment of engineering ingenuity produced a significant turning point for the application of technology and resulting benefits to people, science or industry.

Read about previous winners:

  • 2007 award winner - DynaTAC Engineering Team from Motorola
  • 2006 award winner - Jason Jr. Engineering Team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • 2005 award winner - NASA's Crew Systems Division (1970)