Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) has ever since the beginning, been used around the world as a piece of the early attempts to generate a flammable gas for illumination in the nineteenth century in advance of the successful demonstration of electric arc and incandescent lighting. At a “gas works,” coal was fired in a depleted oxygen environment, resulting in the creation of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. This gas was compressed and distributed in many different places around the world, replacing whale oil but still necessitating “lamplighters” to open individual valves, and light the burner (and close the valve in the morning).

This manufactured gas over time found a simpler system of generation: through specially built coking ovens that changed metallurgical grade coal to coke, for use as a source of carbon to convert iron to steel. The gaseous derivative from these ovens was a more enriched form of the original gas with a higher concentration of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, some methane, and less carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The oven procedures and equipment became relatively standardized, and this gas became widely known as Manufactured Gas Type B.

The demand for coke expanded quickly, as the US and Europe seemed to have an limitless appetite for steel. Coking operations resulted in a regular uninterruptible source of this gas. Like many of the other technical innovations during this period, the gas was simply consumed as an energy and heat source in steel finishing, but its availability eventually spawned additional markets in metal processing and early chemical synthesis once its properties were more fully digested.

In modern times, while coke is still a vital component of steel making, the majority of the commercially produced carbon monoxide is manufactured in world-class plants located near chemical manufacturers who need an ongoing supply of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In these plants, coal has been replaced by steam reforming of natural gas, again in a somewhat depleted atmosphere so that the natural gas carbons are only partially oxidized to carbon monoxide, rather than fully oxidized to carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide is a toxic, flammable gas that is colorless and odorless and has many applications. It is used in organic synthesis to produce everything from ethylene to dimethyl ether (DME) and methanol. CO can be used in the textile industry to test flame resistance. Grade 4, 99.99% pure CO can be found in electronic and semiconductor applications. High purity CO has common application in lung diffusion mixtures, mixed with high purity oxygen, helium and nitrogen to create a breathing atmosphere to measure pulmonary functions by measuring exhaled CO concentrations over a series of breathing cycles. And the largest PurityPlus requirement utilizes Grade 4 Carbon Monoxide in carefully prepared cylinders to blend extremely accurate and stable trace level mixtures for environmental, health and safety monitoring equipment calibration.

While Carbon Monoxide has many uses, if you want to speak with someone who understands how you plan to use it and what to keep in mind. Call Arc3 Gases today at (910) 892-4016 or contact us online for your needs.