A residue-free approach to water disinfection using catalytic in situ generation of reactive oxygen species

Thomas Richards, Jonathan H. Harrhy, Richard J. Lewis, Alexander G.R. Howe, Grzegorz M. Suldecki, Andrea Folli, David J. Morgan, Thomas E. Davies, E. Joel Loveridge, David A. Crole, Jennifer K. Edwards, Paul Gaskin, Christopher J. Kiely, Qian He, Damien M. Murphy, Jean Yves Maillard, Simon J. Freakley, Graham J. Hutchings

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Globally, water disinfection is reliant on chlorination, but requires a route that avoids the formation of chemical residues. Hydrogen peroxide, a broad-spectrum biocide, can offer such an alternative, but is typically less effective than traditional approaches to water remediation. Here, we show that the reactive oxygen species—which include hydroxyl, hydroperoxyl and superoxide radicals—formed over a AuPd catalyst during the synthesis of hydrogen peroxide from hydrogen and air are over 107 times more potent than an equivalent amount of preformed hydrogen peroxide and over 108 times more effective than chlorination under equivalent conditions. The key to bactericidal and virucidal efficacy is the radical flux that forms when hydrogen and oxygen are activated on the catalyst. This approach could form the basis of an alternative method for water disinfection, particularly in communities not currently served by traditional means of water remediation or where access to potable water is scarce. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-585
Number of pages11
JournalNature Catalysis
Issue number7
Early online date1 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the research discussion with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and the Cardiff University electron microscope facility for the transmission electron microscopy. R.J.L. and G.J.H. acknowledge Cardiff University and the Max Planck Centre for Fundamental Heterogeneous Catalysis (FUNCAT) for financial support. S.J.F. acknowledges Cardiff University for financial support as part of the MAXNET Energy Consortium. In addition, S.J.F. acknowledges the award of a Prize Research Fellowship from the University of Bath. D.A.C. acknowledges Selden Research Limited. J.-Y.M. and G.M.S. thank Laboratoires Anios for funding. G.J.H. thanks the EPSRC (EP/F008538/1) for funding. Q.H. acknowledges support from the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore, under its NRF Fellowship (NRF-NRFF11-2019-0002).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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