A non-catalytic two-stage process for removal of NO.sub.x and particulates from engine exhaust comprises a first stage that plasma converts NO to NO.sub.2 in the presence of O.sub.2 and hydrocarbons, and a second stage, which preferably occurs simultaneously with the first stage, that converts NO.sub.2 and carbon soot particles to respective environmentally benign gases that include N.sub.2 and CO.sub.2. By preconverting NO to NO.sub.2 in the first stage, the efficiency of the second stage for NO.sub.x reduction is enhanced while carbon soot from trapped particulates is simultaneously converted to CO.sub.2 when reacting with the NO.sub.2 (that converts to N.sub.2). For example, an internal combustion engine exhaust is connected by a pipe to a chamber where carbon-containing particulates are electrostatically trapped or filtered and a non-thermal plasma converts NO to NO.sub.2 in the presence of O.sub.2 and hydrocarbons. Volatile hydrocarbons (C.sub.x H.sub.y) from the trapped particulates are oxidized in the plasma and the remaining soot from the particulates reacts with the NO.sub.2 to convert NO.sub.2 to N.sub.2, and the soot to CO.sub.2. The nitrogen exhaust components remain in the gas phase throughout the process, with no accompanying adsorption.
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.