UC Riverside engineering students build emissions-cutting device for lawn mowers

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If you grew up in Southern California in the bad smog days, you know how much better the air is today. The credit, in large part, goes to smog-control devices on internal combustion engines – well, most internal combustion engines.

Lawn mowers and leaf blowers still don’t have them. But a team of UC Riverside students just might change that.

They’ve built a small air pollution control device that can be attached to just about any lawn mower engine. Without it, that engine could pollute up to 11 times more than a modern car engine, but with it, we can all breathe easier.

Jonya Blahut, one of the UC Riverside engineering students who invented the device, spoke with KPCC.

The idea for the project:

Blahut and her team jump-started the project about a year ago when one of their friends pointed out that lawn mowers create more pollution than cars.

“One day, we were just hanging out doing some engineering stuff and one of our engineering teammates asked if we knew how much small off-road engines polluted compared to cars. And when she told us, we initially didn’t believe her,” Blahut said. “We did some more research and we found out that it’s true...so we wanted to do something about that."

How it works:

The team used a selective catalytic reducer – technology that can be found in diesel engines—and retrofitted it for gasoline engines in order to make the device effective.

“It’s a three-step process, and when those three steps are put together, it simply reduces the emissions that are coming out of the lawn mower,” Blahut explained.

The group tested out 10 prototypes before they got the device to work. Below is a video that explains their efforts:

Retail Price- $30:

Blahut said the device would retail for $30.

“When we started this, we not only wanted it to be sustainable, but we wanted it to be cheap; we wanted the every-day person to be using it,” she said.

The team is already in talks with several lawn mower and engine manufacturers to get the device on the market.

What’s next? – Make the product even better:

“We’re looking into ways to make it even cheaper… and making it available not only for lawn mowers, but for all types of different off-road engines,” explained Blahut.

Leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, snowmobiles are next in that line-up.

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