Controlling activity and selectivity using water in the Au-catalysed preferential oxidation of CO in H2

Johnny Saavedra, Todd Whittaker, Zhifeng Chen, Christopher J. Pursell, Robert M. Rioux, Bert D. Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Industrial hydrogen production through methane steam reforming exceeds 50 million tons annually and accounts for 2-5% of global energy consumption. The hydrogen product, even after processing by the water-gas shift, still typically contains â 1/41% CO, which must be removed for many applications. Methanation (CO+ 3H2 CH4+ H2 O) is an effective solution to this problem, but consumes 5-15% of the generated hydrogen. The preferential oxidation (PROX) of CO with O2 in hydrogen represents a more-efficient solution. Supported gold nanoparticles, with their high CO-oxidation activity and notoriously low hydrogenation activity, have long been examined as PROX catalysts, but have shown disappointingly low activity and selectivity. Here we show that, under the proper conditions, a commercial Au/Al2 O3 catalyst can remove CO to below 10 ppm and still maintain an O2-to-CO2 selectivity of 80-90%. The key to maximizing the catalyst activity and selectivity is to carefully control the feed-flow rate and maintain one to two monolayers of water (a key CO-oxidation co-catalyst) on the catalyst surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)584-589
Number of pages6
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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