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The Science of Ionization

About Ionization Through
Electrolytic Mineral Ion Systems

Electrolytic mineral ion systems, such as copper-silver ionization, are a proven, effective, non-chemical method to help control bacteria, algae and viruses. Advantages include improved water quality, effective algae and bacteria control, improved sanitation, reduced chemical usage, automated operation and an environmentally friendly method of water sanitation.

Applications: Copper-silver ion systems are proven effective in many applications. Included are pools, spas, ponds, fountains, cooling towers and other similar closed loop applications.

Background: The principal of using metals for water purification goes back hundreds of years. Silver’s effectiveness dates back to the middle ages; it was used in the viaducts and water vessels. Settlers used coins in water barrels to keep their water pure. It was apparent this worked, but no one really knew why. The first reasonably modern attempts to use this ionization process were made in the 1930's.

Then, in the 1960's and early 1970's, the Johnson Space Center conducted a research program aimed at the development of a small, lightweight water purifier that required minimal power and no human monitoring. This program produced an electrolytic silver ion generator, slightly larger than a pager and weighing only nine ounces. One or more units, mounted at various locations in the potable water supply and waste water system of a spacecraft, would dispense silver ions sufficient to eliminate bacteria and sanitize the water within hours.

NASA made this design information available to the industry and from this beginning, one of the world’s most advanced water purification systems was developed. It is capable of handling water volumes into the millions of gallons and is used in many different applications. Pools, spas, decorative water applications, cooling towers, injection molding systems all routinely use ionization as a means of water sanitation.

Design: In basic terms, these types of ion systems typically consist of an anode and cathode (electrodes) made of a proportion of copper and silver, placed in a chamber that is mounted in the existing water recirculation system. An electronic controller sends low-voltage, DC current to the electrodes. This voltage causes some of the outer atoms of the electrodes to lose an electron, therefore, turning these into positive ions.

These ions attempt to flow from one electrode to another (from anode to cathode), but instead, are carried to the pool or spa by the flow of water. To measure the copper level in the water, a test kit is provided with the system. The user adjusts the controller to maintain a correct level. Full system installation and operation is described in an accompanying operations manual.

How it Works: This is a very basic explanation of how copper and silver work. Both have some algaecidal and bactericidal properties. Copper has the ability to pierce the protective outer membrane of a cell and disrupt enzyme balance, as well as allowing other bactericides and algaecides access to the susceptible parts of the organism.

Silver is effective because of its capabilities of interfering with DNA production and accelerating the death phase. Although lethal to bacteria and algae, this process is completely safe to humans. A multitude of scientific tests have been done showing the effectiveness of copper-silver ion systems in different areas including swimming pool and spa applications.

Supplemental or Dual Stage Methods of Sanitation: Ion systems can be used in conjunction with other methods of sanitation including chemical, ozone and ultraviolet systems for improved performance. A report written on a dual stage method of sanitation shows the improved performance that can be achieved from chlorine by combining it with an electrolytic ion system.


The Science of Ionization

  • During the ionization process, an element gains and loses ions.
  • An ion is an atom or group of atoms that contain an electrical charge.
  • An atom contains a nucleus in the center and one or more negatively charged electrons orbiting around the outside.
  • The nucleus contains positively charge particles called protons.
  • An atom usually has an equal number of protons and electrons.
  • ThomsonTec systems function by passing a low-voltage direct current through a copper/silver anode positioned in the water circulation system.
  • The low-voltage charge causes other atoms of the anode to lose electrons. They become positive ions that attempt to flow across the space between the anode and cathode and are carried into the water by force of flow.
  • Once copper ions are released, they create a natural algaecide and bactericide helping you enjoy algae and bacteria-free water every time you use your pool or spa.
  • In residential pools, there is no legal requirement to use chlorine at all. In fact, many ion users don’t. They use a non-chlorine shock or ozone and are very happy. However, we are not suggesting or recommending the ion system is an alternative to chlorine alone. There are reports that show that a low level of chlorine and the use of an ion system is a much better way to sanitize than either method alone.
  • We are in favor of any method or combination of methods that will insure safe, sanitary water and at the same time provide exceptional water quality with virtually none of the down sides associated with standard sanitizing chemicals. In this combination the chlorine level is very low (<.5ppm) so it is basically unnoticeable, plus the ion system is much more effective because of the presence of this low level of halogen providing constant oxidation. This provides the best of both worlds.



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Water Conditioning Systems Technology, 2616 Balsam Court, Madera, California, 93637
1-800-646-2224, Fax 559-673-3381, Email: sales@thomsontec.com