A two-stage catalyst comprises an oxidative first stage and a reductive second stage. The first stage is intended to convert NO to NO.sub.2 in the presence of O.sub.2. The second stage serves to convert NO.sub.2 to environmentally benign gases that include N2, CO2, and H.sub.2 O. By preconverting NO to NO.sub.2 in the first stage, the efficiency of the second stage for NO.sub.x reduction is enhanced. For example, an internal combustion engine exhaust is connected by a pipe to a first chamber. An oxidizing first catalyst converts NO to NO.sub.2 in the presence of O.sub.2 and includes platinum/alumina, e.g., Pt/Al.sub.2 O.sub.3 catalyst. A flow of hydrocarbons (C.sub.x H.sub.y) is input from a pipe into a second chamber. For example, propene can be used as a source of hydrocarbons. The NO.sub.2 from the first catalyst mixes with the hydrocarbons in the second chamber. The mixture proceeds to a second reduction catalyst that converts NO.sub.2 to N2, CO2, and H.sub.2 O, and includes a gamma-alumina .gamma.-Al.sub.2 O.sub.3. The hydrocarbons and NO.sub.x are simultaneously reduced while passing through the second catalyst.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.