What is Ozone?
Ozone, (O3), sometimes called “activated oxygen”, contains three atoms of oxygen rather than the two atoms we normally breathe. Ozone is the second most powerful sterilant in the world and can be used to destroy bacteria, viruses, and odors. Interestingly ozone occurs quite readily in nature, most often as a result of lightning strikes that occur during thunderstorms. In fact, the “fresh, clean, spring rain” smell that we notice after a storm most often results from nature’s creation of ozone. However, we are probably most familiar with ozone from reading about the “ozone layer” that circles the planet above the earth’s atmosphere. Here ozone is created by the sun’s ultra-violet rays. This serves to protect us from ultra-violet radiation.
HOW DOES OZONE WORK?
The third oxygen atom of ozone makes it extremely reactive. This atom readily attaches itself to other odor molecules. When contaminants such as odors, bacteria, or viruses make contact with ozone, their chemical structure is changed to less odorous compounds. As more ozone attacks the remaining compounds, the odor is eventually destroyed. This process is called oxidation. Ozone essentially reverts back to oxygen after it is used. This makes it a very environmentally friendly oxidant.>
HOW IS OZONE PRODUCED?
There are basically two methods of producing ozone…ultra-violet and corona discharge. Corona discharge creates ozone by applying a high voltage to a metallic grid sandwiched between two dielectrics. The high voltage passes through the dielectric to a grounded screen/plate and in the process, creates ozone from oxygen present in the chamber. Ultra-violet (UV) light creates ozone when a wavelength at 254 nm (nanometers) hits an oxygen atom. Both processes split oxygen molecules into single oxygen atoms (O). These atoms combine with another oxygen molecule (O2) to form ozone (O3).
HOW LONG DOES THE OZONE LAST?
As soon as ozone is formed in the generator and dispersed in a room, it will start to revert back to oxygen. This step occurs by several processes including the following: Oxidation reactions with organic material such as odors or smoke. Reactions with bacteria etc. which again consumes ozone by oxidation reactions. Additionally, ozone breaks down thermally. Higher temperatures destroy ozone quicker than lower temperatures. The ozone that remains is referred to as Residual ozone. “Residual” ozone created will return to oxygen usually within 20-30 minutes, in amounts equal to half its level. What this means is that after each subsequent 20-30 minute period there would be half as much residual ozone left at the end of the period as was present at the beginning of the period. This is similar to a geometric progression of 16;8;4;2;1. In practice, the half-life is usually less than 30 minutes due to temperature, dust, and other contaminants in the air. Therefore, ozone, while very powerful, doesn’t last long. It does its job and then disappears back into safe oxygen.
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