Skip to main content

Improved catalysts to enable air purification in life-saving applications

Reducing Carbon Monoxide (CO) in challenging environments is key to keeping people in those environments safe, be it military, mining, or under-sea exploration. By performing fundamental research on the relationship between the preparation and performance of the catalysts used to remove CO from contaminated air, our researchers have developed improved processes by which CO can be removed.

Carbon monoxide is lethal to human life, especially in enclosed spaces such as mining and deep sea exploration so minimising carbon monoxide in these environments is crucial for human health and safety.

Led by Professors Stuart Taylor and Graham Hutchings, our researchers have not only improved the efficacy of these life preserving processes, they have also supported the commercialisation of these materials by Molecular Products Group, resulting in improved products, expansions in to new markets, and new jobs being created to support their manufacture and sale.

Our research

Converting CO in air to carbon dioxide (CO2) at room temperature and pressure is essential in places with reduced access to ventilation and fresh air, such as mines, deep sea diving and submarines. Being able to perform the conversion without the need to vastly alter temperatures and pressures of reactions allows for a reduction of size of the reaction vessels, something that is especially desirable in submarines and deep sea exploration vessels, where space is at a premium. It also increases the safety of the processes which is a benefit to not only undersea vessels, but in deep mines, where there are enough dangers already.

Without the means to remove CO or convert it into CO2, there are severe risks to life in these enclosed spaces. As such catalysts were adopted early on to support the conversion process. Copper Manganese Oxide, commercially known as Hopcalite can be used to remove CO and other toxic gasses from life support systems, however variability in it’s performance has hindered their widespread commercial success.

Molecular Products Group, a multi-national UK-based manufacturing company, sought the expertise of Professors Taylor and Hutchings to perform deeper research into Hopcalite, with the aim of increasing the quality of its manufacture, and efficacy in life support systems.

By analysing and comparing the existing preparation routes the most effective means of production was determined. This approach was supported by new preparation techniques using a new supercritical antisolvent approach. This supercritical approach actively encourages the preparation of new solid materials, and allowed the team to increase their understanding of how the surface structure of the catalysts can increase or decrease catalytic effectiveness.

To ensure they left no stone unturned the team also explored the effect temperature had during manufacturing on the resultant catalyst, finding the sweet spot temperature for manufacture to ensure no drop off of efficacy.

This research also aided the team to develop new, more efficient means of producing Molecular Products Group’s high performance precious metal based catalyst Sofnocat, used in the most demanding of situations such as mine collapses where Hopcalite lacks the ability to convert CO with a high enough performance.


Our research has allowed Molecular Products Group to establish commercially viable CO-removal catalysts that have been sold around the world producing breathable atmospheres for people working in extreme environments, including miners, submariners, and hospital patients under anaesthesia.


C. Jones, K. Cole, S.H. Taylor, M.J. Crudace, G.J. Hutchings, Copper manganese oxide catalysts for ambient temperature carbon monoxide oxidation: effect of calcination on activity. J. Mol. Catal. A: Chem., 2009, 305, 121-124.

C. Jones, S.H. Taylor, A. Burrows, M.J. Crudace, C.J. Kiely, G.J. Hutchings, Cobalt promoted copper manganese oxide catalysts for ambient temperature carbon monoxide oxidation. Chem. Commun., 2008, 1707-1709.

K.J. Cole, A.F. Carley, M.J. Crudace, M. Clarke, S.H. Taylor, G.J. Hutchings, Copper manganese oxide catalysts modified by gold deposition: the influence on activity for ambient temperature carbon monoxide oxidation. Catal. Lett., 2010, 138(3-4), 143-147.

Z. Tang, S.A. Kondrat, C. Dickinson, J.K. Bartley, A.F. Carley, S.H. Taylor, T.E. Davies, M. Allix, M.J. Rosseinsky, J.B. Claridge, Z. Xu, S. Romani, M.J. Crudace, G.J. Hutchings, Synthesis of high surface area CuMn2O4 by supercritical antisolvent precipitation for the oxidation of CO at ambient temperature. Catal. Sci. Technol., 2011, 1(5), 740-746.

Z. Tang, C.D. Jones, T.E. Davies, J.K. Bartley, A.F. Carley, S.H. Taylor, M. Allix, C.Dickinson, M.J. Rosseinsky, J.B. Claridge, Z. Xu, M.J. Crudace, G.J. Hutchings, New nanocrystalline Cu/MnOx catalysts prepared using supercritical antisolvent precipitation. ChemCatChem., 2009, 1(2), 247-251.

J.K. Aldridge, L.R. Smith, D.J. Morgan, A.F. Carley, M. Humphreys, M.J. Clarke, P.Wormald, S.H. Taylor, G.J. Hutchings, Ambient temperature CO oxidation using palladium–platinum bimetallic catalysts supported on tin oxide/alumina. Catalysts 2020, 10, 1223.