Ozone has been used continuously for nearly 90 years in municipal water treatment and the disinfection of water supplies. This practice began in France, then extended to Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and other European countries, and in recent years to Canada. Ozone is a strong oxidizing substance with bactericidal properties similar to those of chlorine. In test conditions it was shown that the destruction of bacteria was between 600 and 3,000 times more rapid by ozone than by chlorine. Further, the bactericidal action of ozone is relatively unaffected by changes in pH while chlorine efficacy is strongly dependent on the pH of the water. Ozone's high reactivity and instability as well as serious obstacles in producing concentrations in excess of 6 percent preclude central production and distribution with its associated economies of scale.

In the electric discharge (or corona) method of generating ozone, an alternating current is imposed across a discharge gap with voltages between 5 and 25 kV and a portion of the oxygen is converted to ozone. A pair of large-area electrodes are separated by a dielectric (1-3 mm in thickness) and an air gap (approximately 3 mm). Although standard frequencies of 50 or 60 cycles are adequate, frequencies as high as 1,000 cycles are also employed.

The mechanism for ozone generation is the excitation and acceleration of stray electrons within the high-voltage field. The alternating current causes the electron to be attracted first to one electrode and then to the other. As the electrons attain sufficient velocity, they become capable of splitting some oxygen molecules into free radical oxygen atoms. These atoms may then combine with 02 molecules to form 03.

Besides the disinfection of sewage effluent, ozone is used for sterilizing industrial containers such as plastic bottles, where heat treatment is inappropriate. Breweries use ozone as an antiseptic in destroying pathogenic ferments without affecting the yeast. It is also used in swimming pools and aquariums. It is sometimes used in the purification and washing of shellfish and in controlling slimes in cooling towers. Ozone has also been shown to be quite effective in destroying a variety of refractory organic compounds.

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