Clean-Air Technologies | Corning is Committed to Cleaner Air | Corning

Corning's materials and process expertise, combined with our global market understanding, have made us key contributors to the campaign for cleaner air for 40 years.

In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, which called for significant reductions in auto emissions. The pressure was on to create a new technology to meet the new requirements. Corning answered the challenge in 1972 with the first cellular ceramic substrate. Virtually every automotive company in the world today relies on the basis of Corning cellular ceramic technology to control exhaust emissions. 

In 1978, Corning developed a cellular ceramic particulate filter to remove soot from diesel emissions. Both innovations, substrates and filters, are manufactured by the company's patented extrusion process in facilities around the world. 

Our Air

The average person breathes close to 3,000 gallons of air (enough to fill a tanker truck) every day. This is why air pollution is an issue of great concern to people around the world.

Clean Air Act

Months after President Nixon proclaimed 1970 as the year of the environment, Congress passed the Clean Air Act – setting national air quality and vehicle emission standards – and established the Environmental Protection Agency to implement those standards. The 1970 Act required a 90% reduction in emissions from new cars by 1975.

LA Smog

Today, even with twice as many vehicles on the road, dangerous air pollutants have been reduced by more than 60% since the Clean Air Act was implemented. Smog levels in Los Angeles have dropped 85%, and clean-air innovations like catalytic converters in automobiles have helped. Today, new cars are 98% cleaner than in 1970 in terms of smog-forming pollutants.

Breathing Easier

Mobile emissions control products have prevented:

        • 4 billion tons of hydrocarbons

        • 4 billion tons of nitrogen oxide

        • 40 billion tons of carbon monoxide

from entering the air we breathe. To help put into perspective, 4 billion tons is equivalent to nearly 9 million fully-loaded 747s. 

How it Works

Corning's substrate introduced a ceramic honeycomb structure with thousands of thin-walled, parallel channels that are open at both ends. When catalyzed, this novel design provides for acres of effective surface area, close to that of a football field. When a precious-metal coating is applied, a chemical reaction occurs with the exhaust stream that converts those smog-causing elements to harmless gases and water vapor.

For diesel particulate filters, alternate ends of adjacent cells in the honeycomb are plugged. As the exhaust flow is forced through the porous walls, soot particles are too large to pass through and are captured on the walls.The filter traps 20 trillion of these particulates every second.

Scientists Awarded

The cellular ceramic substrate proved to be a life-changing innovation. Inventors Dr. Irwin Lachman, Dr. Rodney Bagley, and Ronald Lewis were recognized for their pioneering work by the President of the United States and awarded the 2003 National Medal of Technology, the highest honor for achievements related to technological progress.

Product Life Cycle

With proper maintenance and cleaning, Corning's diesel particulate filters are designed to operate for the life of the vehicle. They can be recycled when the vehicle is no longer in use.

Pollution Reduction

In a typical trip from New York City to Los Angeles and back (about 5,600 miles), a large truck's diesel engine will generate about 560 grams of soot particles. That amount nearly fills a four-liter jar. Without an emission control system, this soot exits the smoke stack into the air we breathe. But that's just one truck, one trip. On average, U.S. freight trucks will travel that distance more than 2 million times in a month. That's a lot of jars of soot.

When we apply a Corning® DuraTrap® filter solution to this vehicle, the soot output drops to only 2.8 grams. That's a more than 99% drop in pollutants exiting the vehicle. 


Our manufacturing footprint has grown, with facilities in the United States, Germany, South Africa, and China. Our global manufacturing presence is still important because air quality remains a significant issue in many parts of the world. Although the developed countries of the world have been deploying our technology since the 1970s, the developing countries are early in their emission control journeys.