Ozone or Triatomic Oxygen (O3) is an unstable gas made up of three Oxygen atoms. It is formed when a single Oxygen atom attaches itself to an Oxygen molecule (O2). O3 is very unstable and will revert back to Oxygen very easily, (2O3 = 3O2).
Because this third atom is so easily dislodged from the molecule, it will freely combine with any other molecule that has a spare space for it.
This process of is called Oxidation and is the reason why Ozone is an excellent killer of bacteria, moulds and viruses. It is also an effective means of removing odours, which it does by attaching to the scent molecule and altering its chemical makeup. This does not mask the smell, it destroys it at source.
Ozone is produced naturally in two ways; Firstly by the chemical reaction with the sunís Ultra Violet rays in the upper atmosphere and secondly by Corona-Discharge.
For most practical applications Ozone is generated using the Corona-Discharge method.
In nature, when there is a thunderstorm, massive voltages are passed through the air as the lightning jumps from cloud to Earth. This electrical discharge with its accompanying blue/white corona causes some of the Oxygen Molecules to break down from O2 to 2O which in turn immediately attaches to another 2 Oxygen molecules giving the equation 2O2 + 2O = 2O3. This also happens when the energy produced by very heavy rain and waterfalls causes the natural production of Ozone.
Because any impurities in the air around us, for example exhaust fumes, will have been cleansed by the O3 molecule combining with them and then reverting to pure Oxygen and oxidised pollutants, which are virtually odourless, the air will smell clean and fresh. So the advantages of using O3 as a means of providing your plants with extra Oxygen are several: The increased Oxygen levels, the odour control, and the anti-microbial and spore controlling properties.
Ozone generators can be purchased from most reputable Hydroponics suppliers. These work by passing Oxygen through a strong UV light or, more commonly, by using a high voltage discharge to break down the Oxygen molecules. In practice the UV system produces considerably less O3, per unit of energy used, than does the Corona-Discharge method.
There has been a lot of discussion about the dangers associated with Ozone in confined spaces. Ozone has a strong recognizable odour, so very low concentrations soon become apparent. This makes it generally safe to work with. The use of Ozone is thought to be safe in low levels (0.05ppm); however in higher concentrations it can be very dangerous. Because it oxidises materials readily it can cause severe irritation to lung tissue and mucous membranes. Other symptoms include headache and a feeling of tightness in the chest, coughing and dryness in the mouth and throat.
Recommended safe levels of maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for humans are: 0.06 ppm for 8 hours per day 5 days per week (ppm = parts per million). For a maximum of 15 minutes a MAC value of 0.3 ppm may be applied. These levels far exceed that where the gas is noticeable by smell. Click on the
Ozone Safety Data Sheet
for further information.
While it is quite possible and fairly easy to make an O3 generator at home please bear in mind that a good working knowledge of high voltage electricity and its associated safety procedures is essential to avoid injury or even death.
It is always better to spend a little extra money on an article and know that it is safe for you and your family to be around, rather than risk a less safe alternative which could end in a tragedy.
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