Monday, February 06, 2006

How is Ozone Produced ? and Why ?

We have to have a supply of O2, which is two atoms of oxygen, in one molecule to breathe, in order to sustain life and burn, (OXIDIZE), the food we consume, so we can sustain life. O2 is produced in nature by photosynthesis in green plant life on land and Blue-Green Algae in water. Plants take in CO2, and strip out the carbon atom to form into other compounds to make food and thereby sustain life and grow. It has no use for the O2 after the C is used, so it is passed out as waste, much to our benefitWhen a molecule of O2 is exposed to UV, or Ultraviolet sunlight, the activity levels of the individual atoms will be increased due to the absorbed energy. If the level is high enough, the O2 will split into two free O atoms. The extra energy is released in the form of a photon of lower energy in the blue wavelength, which is why the sky is blue. Most of the oxygen atoms will recombine into more O2. However, some of the O atoms will glom onto an O2 and the result is, of course, O3, OZONE! The third atom of oxygen is very loosely bound to the other two O atoms, which results in a very unstable molecule. Consequently an O3 molecule will actively seek something with which the loosely bound third atom can combine and thereby return to a more stable state. Of course O2 is also an oxidizer but not nearly as powerful as the much more unstable O3. In fact ozone is the second most powerful oxidizer falling only after Fluorine . In pure water, ozone is 3125 times as powerful as chlorine, the most commonly used sterilizer. However, ozone will not produce the toxic by-products as does chlorine. Ozone will gradually self-decay to O2, depending on temperature and humidity in as little as a few seconds, to an hour or so and therefore leaves only oxygen as it's final product. Ozone is present in large quantities in the upper atmosphere generally at 20 to 30 miles in altitude in what is called the "OZONOSPHERE." Yes, it is being depleted, but not by FREON, (CFCs). Chlorinated Fluorocarbons are only the vehicle that transports atoms of Chlorine into the upper atmosphere. The CFCs are broken down by UV radiation, which frees the Chlorine atoms which very easily combine with free O atoms and stop the formation of O3. Therefore, chlorine is the villain and CFCs are only the vehicle in which the bad guy travels. Chlorine is separated from common salt in brine and is then combined into many useful and more often than imagined, dangerous commodities. However, CO2 has replaced FREON as the foaming agent in Styrofoam cups. So troubling as Styrofoam is in the environment, it is not having an effect on the ozone layer. The good news is that ozone is constantly being replenished by solar radiation in the upper layers of our atmosphere. The bad news for most of us here at this time is that Chlorine atoms can and will persist for a century or more in the upper atmosphere. Therefore, it is important that we stop creating and using the products that allow this life-threatening depletion to proceed. If ozone was not present in the atmosphere, no life forms could exist on the surface of the earth. We are protected because almost all of the Sun's UV radiation is absorbed in constantly creating and destroying O2 and O3 molecules. Therefore, it can be said with certainty that before there was ozone, there were no surface life forms present on the earth. The Blue-Green Algae that was, and still is, in the oceans formed the O2 that came out of solution with the water, rose into the skies and was formed into the shield that allowed and still allows, all of us to be here. The "Stramatolites" formed by the Blue-Green Algae can still be found in living and fossilized forms.The pungent odor of ozone was first reported by Van Mauren in 1785 in the vicinity of an electrical discharge. In 1840 in Germany, it was reported that the odor resulted from the presence of a previously unknown compound whose structure was confirmed in 1872 as a "TRIATOMIC" allotrope of oxygen. The characteristic odor of ozone in low concentrations is similar to that of new mown hay and is detectable by most people at a level of 0.015 PPM, {Parts Per Million}. Commercial applications soon followed as the properties and various reactions of O3 were explored and discovered. Nice, France has used ozone in it's water treatment system since 1906. More recently, Los Angeles and San Diego have applied ozone treatment as the many hazards of Chlorine by-products have been identified. The city of Orlando, Florida is using the oxidation power of ozone to eliminate Hydrogen Sulfide from water. Hydrogen sulfide, (H2S) is better known for the odor of rotten eggs. In 1980 there were 1100 such water-treatment applications world-wide.

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