How Does Ozone Purify Air?
Effectiveness and Safety of Ozone
What Is Ozone?
Ozone is generated naturally by short-wave solar ultraviolet radiation and appears in our upper atmosphere ozonosphere in the form of a gas. Ozone also may be produced naturally by passing an electrical discharge -- such as lightning -- through oxygen molecules. Lightning is a perfect example of making an abundance of O3 to purify the earth's atmosphere Nature's way. Most of us have noticed the clean, fresh smell in the outdoor air after a thunderstorm, or the way clothing smells after it has been dried outside on a clothesline in the sun.
Here's how Ozone Molecules (O3) are converted from Oxygen (O2) as a result of an electrical charge: Oxygen, as we know, has two atoms. High voltage, as from lightning, breaks these two atoms apart. Quickly, these atoms hop back together in threes (O3). Confused, these atoms do not like this arrangement and want desperately to dissolve this uncomfortable trio.
So as this O3 molecule floats in the air, if one of the atoms spots a contaminant molecule, it breaks away from the other two atoms and attaches itself to the contaminant. This attachment is actually an attack on the contaminant (oxidation) and creates a microscopic explosion. Both the contaminant and the atom are destroyed. This leaves the other two atoms behind as pure oxygen (O2) without the presence of the contaminant. The explosion changes the contaminant into carbon dioxide and hydrogen, which we can breathe.
Ozone is highly reactive, so it interacts with most contaminates and allergens it encounters, rendering them harmless while also removing odors. Ozone can be effective against chemical sources, bacteria, mold, odors, etc. Once a pollutant is oxidized by ozone, it is no longer toxic, allergenic or odor causing. As a result, even if an oxidized contaminant remains in the air and is inhaled, it has no negative effect. Microorganisms such as mold spores or bacteria that have been exposed to ozone are no longer able to reproduce, which causes their numbers to quickly diminish. However, should the O3 molecule not find a contaminant in its environment, it will attack itself to change its configuration of O3 back to O2 (normal oxygen) in 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature and normal humidity.
"Ozone controls surface mold on packages and walls and reduces scale development and decay. The presence of ozone significantly reduces the occurrence of mold"
-- ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning)
How Else Does Ozone Purify?
Ozone is also biocidal, which means it kills harmful biological and bacterial contaminants. This biocidal action results from its reaction with the double bonds of fatty acids in bacterial cell walls, membranes and the protein capsid of viruses. In bacteria, the oxidation results in a change in cell permeability and leakage of cell contents into solution. Ozone attacks these cell walls, breaking down membranes and ultrastructural components of the organism. In more simple terms, the unstable electrons of ozone blast holes through the membranes. This occurs by cell lysing or rupturing the cell wall of viruses, bacteria, yeast and abnormal tissue cells, thereby destroying them by inactivation of the microorganism's enzymes.
In viruses, alteration of the protein capsid prevents the virus from being taken up by susceptible cells.Ozone displays an "all or nothing" effort in terms of destroying bacteria. It is such a strong germicide that only a few micrograms per liter are required to demonstrate germicidal action. Factors like humidity, temperature, pH, ozone concentration levels, type of organism and time, determine the kill rate for pathogens. After oxidation, ozone returns to its original form of oxygen, without leaving any toxic by-products or residues.
There are many different allergens, irritants and contaminants that can naturally occur in the air, including:
- Dust and dirt
- Food Odours
Ozone is one effective way to neutralize any of these allergens and stop them from growing. Because it doesn’t use water and soap for cleaning, there is no drying time needed after running the cycle. At the end of the process, the air may smell slightly of ozone (like after a thunderstorm which is when ozone is created naturally) which will naturally fade and go away.
Ozone purification should be performed by a professional.