The university received an enquiry from Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, who were wisely looking ahead to ensure a constant supply of the reagent.
The chemical, soda lime, a mixture of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and calcium oxide (CaO), scrubs carbon dioxide (CO2) from a patient’s exhaled air so the air can be recirculated, in a similar way to navy diver’s rebreathing apparatus.
Professor Hal Sosabowski, the university’s Professor of Public Understanding of Science and colleagues responded to the call, before Professor Lizzy Ostler from the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences stepped in.
Professor Sosabowski said: “I made local enquiries in our own chemical inventory but it became clear we couldn’t just use laboratory-grade reagents.
“Professor Ostler, a keen recreational diver, came up with the ingenious idea of contacting dive centres whose members use rebreathing equipment as an alternative to normal SCUBA tanks.