A high-surface-area (greater than 600 m2/g), large-pore (pore size diameter greater than 6.5 angstroms), basic zeolite having a structure such as an alkali metal cation-exchanged Y-zeolite is employed to convert NO.sub.x contained in an oxygen-rich engine exhaust to N.sub.2 and O.sub.2. Preferably, the invention relates to a two-stage method and apparatus for NO.sub.x reduction in an oxygen-rich engine exhaust such as diesel engine exhaust that includes a plasma oxidative stage and a selective reduction stage. The first stage employs a non-thermal plasma treatment of NO.sub.x gases in an oxygen-rich exhaust and is intended to convert NO to NO.sub.2 in the presence of O.sub.2 and added hydrocarbons. The second stage employs a lean-NO.sub.x catalyst including the basic zeolite at relatively low temperatures to convert such NO.sub.2 to environmentally benign gases that include N.sub.2, CO.sub.2, and H.sub.2 O.
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.