Ionization and Electrolysis basics:
Ionization occurs when compounds and pure elements separate into their atomic species or individual atoms. Ionization occurs under a number of conditions both natural e.g. ozone produced by lighting, and commercial e.g. ozone produced to purify the air in home ventilation systems.
Electrolysis is a type of ionization whereby an electrical current is passed between a positive electrode (cathode) and negative electrode (anode) in a solution (H2O).
A portion of the ions generated at the cathode are deposited at anode the balance of the ions are dispersed into the system. The ions generated are either cations having positive charge or anions having negative charge are highly reactive and commonly referred to as free radicals.
Microbial sanitation or disinfection is the process of eliminating microbes, including bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, fungus and mold, from a recirculating or point of entry water treatment system. The disinfection can be accomplished via a number of methodologies including copper ionization.
Cu Ionization Sanitation:
Copper ionization is utilized in a wide range of commercial, industrial and residential applications including hospitals, dental offices, municipal and well water point of entry water treatment, irrigation, greenhouses, animal husbandry, cooling towers and swimming pools. It first came to the public’s attention when NASA used the combination of copper-silver ionization for disinfecting the water aboard Apollo space missions the 1960s.
Copper-ionization Sanitation Mechanism:
Copper ions (Cu2+) produced by electrolysis become attached to particles of negative polarity including bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, algae, mold and fungi. The copper ions form electrostatic compounds with the negatively charged cell walls of the microorganisms, which disrupts the permeability of the cell wall causing nutrient uptake to fail. As a result, cellular growth and cell division is disrupted, causing the microorganisms to die out. The waste compounds created by this process are then removed by filtration.
The Benefits of Copper-ionization:
Copper-ionization affectively deactivates microorganisms including the Legionella bacteria and bio-film.
The ‘residual’ ions are disturbed throughout the treatment system, subsequently it is effective throughout the entire water system, even in dead-end points and portions of the system that contain slow-running water.
The copper ions remain in the water longer than other disinfectants i.e. ozone.
Because of its residual affectivity, the effect is system wide rather that at the point source like UV disinfection.
Copper-ionization does not depend on water temperature.
Less maintenance of the water system is required, since copper ions are non-corrosive, unlike chlorine ions for example, which is highly corrosive. Pool covers, pool membranes and pumps are affected by copper-ionization.
Showerheads, holding & storage tanks and taps remain uncontaminated by microorganisms.
The use of chemicals* is minimized; in the case of chlorine it eliminates the well documented toxic/carcinogenic properties of chlorine's byproducts trihalomethanes and chloramines.
*In swimming pools non-chlorine shock and algaecides are used if the Cu concentration is allowed to drop and phosphate remover used to remove phosphates and muriatic acid and baking soda is used to to adjust the pH down/up.
Drawbacks of Copper-ionization:
Copper-silver affectivity depends on the pH value of the water: at a pH value of 9, the ideal concentration range is in-between 0.4 to 0.7 ppm: above or below these concentrations the affectivity is reduced.
To affectively kill pathogenic microorganisms, copper ions need to be present in the entire water system (residual concentration); if the water flow is slowed or stopped the affectivity dis minimize or stopped.
Are there health effects associated with copper-silver ionization?
Copper is an essential nutrient at low concentrations, but is toxic to all organisms at concentrations well in excess of the concentration used for water disinfection. (see
There are no published references documenting any negative health effects of long-term exposure to the copper ion concentrations at </= 0.7ppm utilized for typical copper-ionization disinfection applications. The suggested maximum safe level of copper in drinking water is 2.0mg/l.
How is the copper-ion concentration monitored and measured?
The copper ion concentration recorded in a log along with the other water analyses and test data. A simple colorimetric test kit measures the copper ion concentration, which is typically performed on monthly basis.
Why not use silver ionization instead of copper ionization or in combination with copper Ionization?
When total dissolved solid (TDS) concentrations are high, silver (Ag) will precipitate out of the water, subsequently the silver ions are no longer available for disinfection. Silver ions react easily and bind with any chlorines and nitrates present in the water making them to no longer available for disinfection. Some species of microorganisms can become resistant to silver ions over time unlike copper.
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