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What is Ozone
time:2015-10-05 16:25:07

What is Ozone

Ozone is an inorganic molecule with the chemical formula O2. It is a pale blue gas with a distinctively pungent smell. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope O2, breaking down in the lower atmosphere to normal dioxygen. Ozone is formed from dioxygen by the action of ultraviolet light and also atmospheric electrical discharges, and is present in low concentrations throughout the Earth's atmosphere. In total, ozone makes up only 0.6ppm of the atmosphere.

Ozone's odor is sharp, reminiscent of chlorine, and detectable by many people at concentrations of as little as 10ppb in air. Ozone's O3 formula was determined in 1865. The molecule was later proven to have a bent structure and to be diamagnetic. In standard conditions, ozone is a pale blue gas that condenses at progressively cryogenic temperatures to a dark blu liquide and finally a violet-black solid. Ozone's instability with regard to more common dioxygen is such that both concentrated gas and liquid ozone may decompose explosively. It is therefore used commercially only in low concentrations.

Ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent, far stronger than O2. It is also unstable at high concentrations, decaying to ordinary diatomic oxygen. It has a varying length half-life (meaning half as concentrated, or half-depleted), depending upon atmospheric conditions (temperature, humidity, and air movement).

Ozone is a powerful oxidant and has many industrial and consumer applications related to oxidation. This same high oxidizing potential, however, causes ozone to damage mucus and respiratory tissues in animals, and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 ppb. This makes ozone a potent respiratory hazard and pollutant near ground level. However, the so-called ozone layer is beneficial, preventing damaging ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth's surface, to the benefit of both plants and animals.

Ozone often forms in nature under conditions where O2 will not react. Ozone used in industry is measured in μmol/mol (ppm, parts per million), nmol/mol (ppb, parts per billion), μg/m3, mg/h (milligrams per hour) or weight percent. The regime of applied concentrations ranges from 1 to 5% in air and from 6 to 14% in oxygen for older generation methods. New electrolytic methods can achieve up 20 to 30% dissolved ozone concentrations in output water.

Production

Ozone cannot be stored and transported like other industrial gases (because it quickly decays into diatomic oxygen) and must therefore be produced on site. Temperature and humidity plays a large role in how much ozone is being produced using traditional generation methods such as corona discharge and ultraviolet light.

Corona discharge method

This is the most common type of ozone generator for most industrial and personal uses. While variations of the "hot spark" coronal discharge method of ozone production exist, including medical grade and industrial grade ozone generators, these units usually work by means of a corona discharge tube. They are typically cost-effective and do not require an oxygen source other than the ambient air to produce ozone concentrations of 3–6%. Fluctuations in ambient air, due to weather or other environmental conditions, cause variability in ozone production.

Ultraviolet light

UV ozone generators, or vacuum-ultraviolet (VUV) ozone generators, employ a light source that generates a narrow-brand ultraviolet light, a subset of that produced by the sun. The Sun's UV sustains the ozone layer in the stratosphere of earth.


While standard UV ozone generators tend to be less expensive, they usually produce ozone with a concentration of about 0.5% or lower. Another disadvantage of this method is that it requires the air (oxygen) to be exposed to the UV source for a longer amount of time, and any gas that is not exposed to the UV source will not be treated.

Cold plasma

In the cold plasma method, pure oxygen gas is exposed to plasma created by dielectric barrier discharge. The diatomic oxygen is split into single atoms, which then recombine in triplets to form ozone.

Cold plasma machines utilize pure oxygen as the input source and produce a maximum concentration of about 5% ozone. They produce far greater quantities of ozone in a given space of time compared to ultraviolet production. However, because cold plasma ozone generators are very expensive, they are found less frequently than the previous two types.

Electrolytic

Electrolytic ozone generation (EOG) splits water molecules into H2, O2, and O3. In most EOG methods, the hydrogen gas will be removed to leave oxygen and ozone as the only reaction products. Therefore, EOG can achieve higher dissolution in water without other competing gases found in corona discharge method, such as nitrogen gases present in ambient air. This method of generation can achieve concentrations of 20–30% and is independent of air quality because water is used as the source material. Production of ozone electrolytically is typically unfavorable because of the high overpotential required to produce ozone as compared to oxygen. This is why ozone is not produced during typical water electrolysis.

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