The Science of Ozone
When most people think of ozone, they picture a thin layer of gas high above the earth’s outermost atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But this bluish gas, which sometimes is described as that “fresh smell” after a thunderstorm, has a variety of down-to earth uses.
Ozone is a gas. And it’s made of just one thing—oxygen.
"Ozone can be visualized as a regular O2 molecule with a very nervous, active, reactive, excitable, energetic, and lively O1 atom as a side kick. This monatomic O1 atom does not like to be alone, and near the earth's surface, it refuses to stay with the stable O2 double bond. It is active and reactive, with energy needing to be channeled in some useful direction. It will combine with virtually anything on contact, or at least will try. This active O1 will not stabilize until it can break away from the O2 and form a stable molecule with something else, virtually any other molecule that is available. If no other molecule is available, it will eventually unite with another O1 atom in the same situation, and restabilize as O2."
The preceding was adapted from an EPA paper on ozone in drinking water.
How Ozone Works
Ozone is a very strong disinfectant and oxidizer. Any pathogen or contaminant that can be disinfected, altered or removed via an oxidation process will be affected by ozone. It is the strongest of all molecules available for disinfection in water treatment, and is second only to elemental fluorine in oxidizing power. Compared to chlorine, the most common water disinfection chemical, ozone is a more than 50% stronger oxidizer and acts over 3,000 times faster. Both chlorine and fluorine are highly toxic chemicals.
For more than a century, ozone has been used in Europe for purifying drinking water. Here in the United States, ozone is used for purifying bottled water and for decontaminating cooling towers. The City of Los Angeles currently uses ozone to purify its water supply. But ozone is not limited to drinking water.
On June 23, 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status to ozone for use in food-contact applications. With full FDA approval in place, food processors immediately began putting this exciting new technology to use in their plants.
Today, ozone technology is used in the processing of meat, poultry, seafood and fresh produce because it is recognized as the safest, most cost-effective and chemical-free way of dealing with food safety management. Knowledgeable food processors have identified the No. 1 benefit of using ozone—it extends the shelf life of their product—so important in the competitive world of today’s international food industry.
Benefits of Ozone
- Ozone is 51% more powerful on bacterial cell walls than chlorine.
- Ozone kills bacteria 3100 times faster than chlorine.
- Ozone is the most powerful broad spectrum microbiological control agent available.
- Ozone ELIMINATES the use of hot water and conventional sanitizer.
- Ozone virtually eliminates all chemical usage.
- Ozone is chemical-free; it produces NO toxic by-products.
- Ozone has full FDA-approval for direct-food contact application.
- Ozone is clean and environment-friendly; its only by-product is oxygen.
- Ozone is extremely effective as a disinfectant at relatively low concentrations.
- Ozone is generated on site eliminating the transporting, storing and handling of hazardous materials.
- Ozone is very inexpensive to produce and has an unlimited supply.
- Ozone is much safer for employees than any conventional chemicals.
- Ozone extends the shelf life of food products.
- Ozone permits recycling of wastewater.
- Ozone reduces Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD).