Ozone FAQs

Developments in Ozone

What’s new in ozone technology?
Ozone has been made essentially the same way industrially for more than 100 years. Cold plasma, electrolytic, and other ozone production methods are not hardy enough to survive long in production environments. This leaves ozone contacting, and this is typically bent to fit the needs of the process. Where once ozone required acres of contacting tanks, now it is applied in-line and at higher pressures for more efficiency. What is new, is the world where ozone cooperates with other water treatment methods, and not as a competitor. Formerly called “advanced oxidation”.

Is ozone used in places where I might visit?
Most places where ozone is used, require special visitor permission to see the equipment. Municipal water treatment in several US cities, bottled water plants, treatment areas in some restaurants, food manufactories and processors, and of course public exhibits at zoos and aquaria. Ozone allows reuse of water, without increasing hardness through delivered chemical addition, so it is the obvious choice where water reuse is critical.

Is ozone safe and efficient to use for household purposes?
Ozone is a hazardous gas that is a part of our environment. So safe means education is required to minimize exposure. And it does certain important things for household use, just not *everything* every householder wants. It destroys most compounds that produce taste and odor. It converts dissolved cyanide into a compound that can be processed by humans… but only if the water is used right away. It makes most metals insoluble in water, so they are easy to filter (so filtration is still required). It sterilizes water without additional heat, but it takes some time to do its job. And you can rinse teeth and cuts with it in water solution. Just don’t try and breathe it, or think it is some sort of miracle cure.

Is ozone a better solution to decontaminate water than chemicals?
It depends on the contamination. Fluoride removal, cannot be accomplished by ozone. Manganese reduction must be *carefully* attempted with ozone (it can overoxidize). Ozone will not do anything with hardness or salinity… it just won’t make it any worse. Methane and ozone ignore one another, at least until they hit ozone destruct media. “Better” does not mean “a solution to all needs”.

What happened to the e-coli scare at “restaurant name”? Did they ever determine the source of this?
It is always either:- water sources used to irrigate the foods at the supplier or restaurant,- cleanliness of the employees at the grower thru the restaurant,- storage and handling temperature / procedures between field and plate,- cooking procedures, and- handling by food service personnel as the plate is delivered.E. Coli is required for every human being alive, in the proper amount and location, and a species we are accustomed to. Our immune systems train on them in our gut. It is a “foreign” strain of E. Coli, delivered in sufficient quantities, to present a challenge that is of concern. There are other pathogens besides E. Coli, they are just not as common, and all can be killed by the use of ozone at key points in the processing.

The Future of Ozone

Is there any way for ozone technology to improve?
Ozone has had the following issues that it needs to address:
bad press created in part by the chemical feed industry (such as bromate, something that chlorine can also produce)
electrical power supply sensitivity
high initial capital cost (most municipalities can fund higher operating cost, but lower initial capital cost)
and to a lesser extent, increased intelligence on the part of service personnel (so training and retention are important).
These are all surmountable, by documentation and persistence, improvements in power supplies, improvements in cell design, and equipment / controls design.

Will ozone become more efficient? Or is 20% concentration the limit?
With a team of specialists, and extensive periodic repairs, higher concentration can certainly be obtained. The next advancement will probably be in microscopic “factories”, along the lines of small chemical plants, that will make ozone concentrations probably in excess of 50 wt%, but have onerous gas preparation and filtration requirements. It would be similar to how easy it is to poison fuel cells with small amounts of contaminants. Each improvement in concentration, comes at the cost of increased cooling, and increased maintenance. Already, ozone concentrators have been tried and implemented to concentrate ozone in excess of 30 wt%, and recycle oxygen gas for reuse. But crystal balls are inherently unreliable…

What are some future applications that might become available?
Ozone in medical treatment, where that makes sense. Ozone in home water supplies in many cases. Most expansion will be in areas that we don’t even know of, currently. But synergies with other treatment methods, is where the biggest benefit for all is to be found.

Will ozone ever be a household cleaner or utility item?
It is already used by our own white blood cells, as part of a last resort attempt to fight infection. In many cases, ozone and/or UV are already found in home / small business water coolers. Higher end washing machines can be found that make and apply ozone to wash water. And of course some spas and hot tubs use ozone to “regenerate” bromine in replacement of chlorine, to reduce blowdown requirements. So it is already “household” and “utility”, just in homes that can afford high-end equipment, and know how to maintain it.

Ozone Safety

Is ozone harmful to people and other living things?
Ozone is destructive to the breathing structures of both plants and animals. Despite this ozone is sometimes made in order to fight infection / predation, under very controlled circumstances. Even one species of kudzu lets the Sun make ozone from stuff it exudes, to clear other plant life from areas it can then take over.

What makes ozone so harmful to living things?
Several mechanisms, direct oxidation (blood cell inactivation), swelling (breathing passages pinched off), lysing the fat cells in cell walls through which cells breathe, and more.

How much ozone exposure is too much?
If it affects your breathing, or gives you a headache, it is too much. US-OSHA produces useful numbers that are guidelines for workplace exposure. Even the US-EPA produces numbers, and correlates them with statistical death results, where ozone and the chemical precursors that make ozone, kill.

What are the ways/tools/products used to keep an ozone installation safe?
Noses, exposure badges, ambient ozone monitors (handheld, portable, fixed, or built-in to equipment), and then the classics offgas system design and implementation, lockout / tagout procedures, and TRAINING.