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

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Corning has been setting the standards for clean-air technologies
for more than 45 years

A Turning Point in Protecting our Environment with Clean Air Technologies

A Turning Point in Protecting our Environment with Clean Air Technologies

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. 

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.

Breathing Easier

The average person breathes close to 3,000 gallons of air (enough to fill a tanker truck) every day. 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. 

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 technology and innovations like catalytic converters in automobiles have helped. Nowadays, new cars are 98% cleaner than in 1970 in terms of smog-forming pollutants.

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. 

How Our Clean Air Technology 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. Learn more on how our substrates and filters work in this article.

Product Life Cycle

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


Our manufacturing footprint has grown, with facilities in the United States, Germany, South Africa, and China. Our global manufacturing presence is 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.

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.