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Water + Salt + Energy = Clean! 374

Posted by chrisd
from the don't-know-that-I'd-drink-it dept.
codesmith.ca writes "CTV News is reporting about a device built at the Russian Institute for Medical Engineering that can convert standard water and salt into an antimicrobial solution. Apparently it's works on almost anything (virii, bacteria, cysts...) and it's safe for human consumption to boot. I can't find a site for the institute, but there are articles around. This one is fairly detailed, but hard to reach. Here's the Google cache. Here's one about a paper shows it's not exactly super-new technology." Any chemist care to comment on what sounds to be too good to be true?
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Water + Salt + Energy = Clean!

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  • val kilmer shows up and proves it to be a hoax.
  • cool (Score:2, Funny)

    by jomast (173693)
    cool
    does this mean that windows machines will be virus free from now on??
  • This one is fairly detailed, but hard to reach.

    ALL links in Slashdot are hard to reach. This one is just soon to be impossible to reach.
  • who has ever been told to gargle with salt water for a sore throat?

    1. Claim to have invented salt water
  • Me too! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Overcoat (522810) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:05PM (#4181934)
    I can convert beer into a water and salts solution! What do I get?
  • Then why aren't you supposed to be in the ocean during a thunderstorm? Seems highly similar...Except apparently with real lightning and salt water you die.
  • by SkewlD00d (314017) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:11PM (#4181955)
    Using electricity, it splits table salt (NaCl) into Na+ and Cl- ions, and you get chlorinated, swimming pool water. And the Na+ is recycled by recombining with Cl- and all you ever add is salt. I saw one of these units on "This Old House," for a swimming pool. Bottom line: never add chlorine, just salt and electricity.
    • just putting salt into solution ionizes it. if you apply electricity you will hydrolyze the water and split it into hydrogen and oxygen gas. put the crackpipe down.
    • Try:

      http://www.watermaid.com.au

      for one. There are quite a few others, too. Just throw "salt water chlorination" into google.
    • by mesocyclone (80188) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:41PM (#4182044) Homepage Journal
      I built one of these things (salt water hydrolizer) in a (foolish) attempt to cut my pool chemical costs. Unfortunately, it leaked chlorine gas! I don't think my lungs have yet recovered, and it's been 20 years! Done right, however (and not being a putz as I was in the way I built it), people used to chlorinate their pools this way.

      The Cl- ions form chlorine gas> If you can keep it involved in the water, the whole thing works. It does, however, produce lots of NAOH, which is not a nice thing to have around either!

      Oh, and the design I used (I found it somewhere around town) used asbestos to separate the positive and negative regions.

      In general, it was your all around chemical warfare and carcinogenic dream!
    • actually. you dont need electricity for the NaCl to turn into Na+ Cl-. In fact, salt water does kill bacteria. I think the electricity just makes it run faster.
    • by UberQwerty (86791) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @11:22PM (#4182520) Homepage Journal
      Using electricity, it splits table salt (NaCl) into Na+ and Cl- ions, and you get chlorinated, swimming pool water. And the Na+ is recycled by recombining with Cl- and all you ever add is salt

      A while ago I read Neal Stephenson's Zodiac, which mentions chlorene. This post rang a bell, so I dug it up and pawed through it to find what it had to say. The book only tells you about the situation in bits and pieces, so this really took some searching:

      Ionic chlorene's easy to get. It's in seawater. If you want to manufacture a whole catalog of industrial chemicals, you have to convert ionic chlorine into the covalent variety. You do that by subtracting an electron.
      And it's just about that simple. You take a tank of seawater and you put a couple of bare wires into it. You hook up a source of electrical power up between the wires, and current - a stream of electrons - flows through the water. The molecules get rearranged. The ionic chlorine turns into the covalent kind, which is what you want. The sodium joins up with fractured water molecules to form sodium hydroxide. Or lye and alkali, depending on how educated you are. ...

      If you're an engineer, and you're not very bright, it's easy to love polychlorinated biphenyls. They are cheap, stable, and easy to make and they take heat very well. That's why they end up in heat exchangers and electrical transformers. It's how they got into that machine in Japan and, when the pipes started to leak, it's how they got into a lot of rice oil.
      Unfortunately, rice oil is for human consumption, and as soon as humans enter the equation, PCBs no longer look very good. The problem with humans is that they have a lot of fat in their bodies, and PCBs have this vicious affinity for fat. They dissolve themselves in human fat cells and they never leave. They are studded with loose chlorine atoms that know how to break up chromosomes. So when that heat exchanger started leaking, the city of Kusho, Japan started to look like the site of a Biblical plague. Newborn babies came out undersized and dark brown. People started to waste away. They developed a fairly disgusting skin rash called chloracne and felt very sick. ...

      A benzene ring is a six-pack of carbon atoms. The six-pack is held together. It's stable. It's strong. It takes some effort to pull one of the atoms off. There are a couple different kinds. If you put two six-packs together, you have a twelve-pack. THe six-packs are phenyls, a twelve-pack is a biphenyl. If the six-packs are benzenes, it's a dibenzodioxin, because the connection between the six-packs is made by using a couple of oxygen atoms. But the toxic part of polychlorinated dibenzodioxin (PCDDs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is the chlorine.
      The biphenyl or dibenzodioxin structure dissolves easily in fat. Once it gets into your body fat, it never leaves.
      The second bad thing is, the chlorine there is in covalent form; it's got the normal number of electrons, whereas the chlorine in (safe) table salt is in ionic form. It's got an extra electron. The difference is that covalent chlorine is more reactive; it has these big electron clouds that can f*** up your chromosomes. And it slips right through your cell membranes. Ionic chlorine ddoesn't - the cell membranes are made to stop it.


      In Stephenson's book, this guy Sangamon Taylor runs around trying to take down corporations that electrocute seawater to create PCBs, use the PCBs as coolant, then dump them into Boston harbor. Stephenson makes it seem like the root of all evil is zapping salt water, because it produces organic chlorine. So I would be very, very careful about intentionally electrocuting salt water and then swimming in it.

      It seems like there must be something more to this if, as you said, "This Old House" recommended the process. Maybe it works differently with plain salt water as opposed to sea water. Or something. Scares the crap out of me, though. Maybe someone smarter can tell me what I'm talking about?

  • From what the article says, it sounds like all they're doing is passing a high electrical current through a saline solution. I don't understand how this solution is supposed to retain its charge, let alone not decompose the salt solution into base molecules. (hydrogen, chlorine, oxygen)

    Has anyone seen a more detailed description of how this thing actually works? It can't be as simple as the article describes, solutions just don't work that way.

    • The water breaks down the sodium and chlorine ions itself, the eletricity just pulls them apart, giving you chlorine gas (I think).

      I don't see how it would be safe for humans, but whatever.
  • Add some cough syrup to it and you get a Flaming Hom^H^H^H^HMoe!
  • by 26199 (577806) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:20PM (#4181980) Homepage

    Let's have a look at that CTV report:

    The resulting solution is so energy rich, it dissolves all microbes it comes in contact with, in water, on objects and on human skin. It also happens to be odorless, colorless, and completely safe for human consumption.

    It dissolves microbes, but is safe for human consumption? Is anyone else not convinced?

    Researchers said the technique used to control bacteria, viruses, cysts and germs is 200 to 300 times more efficient than any other purification alternative.

    200 to 300 times more efficient, how, exactly? And what does it do to help cysts?

    (and, er, what's the difference between a virus and a germ?)

    The process is cheap. It costs just fractions of a penny to purify a litre of water. Researchers have even been able to take spoiled milk and, by passing it through the Emerald, make it fresh once again. Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it?

    Yep... it does. Sorry.

    • Doesn't sound like science fiction to me. Science fiction tends to be at least a little bit plausible. This thing sounds like ordinary everyday quackery.
    • Bare with me, biology was a LONG time ago and chemistry was more recent.
      A virus is basically a self replicating (with a hosts help) package of RNA.

      A germ (or bacteria) is a single celled organism.

      Here's the problem as I see it. "spoiled" milk is not JUST caused by bacterial action. It's also a chemical conversion of lactose and lipids. Unless this stuff is some Uber-Converter that can reverse time, this story is full of crap. Now, it COULD have enough energy to 'dissolve' the biological matter present in it. Hell, if I put a huge current though an ionic solution, I can almost guarantee everything in it is going to be toast too.

      That's not remarkable, that's bad swimming pool pump maintenace.

    • ...odorless, colorless...
      Iocaine powder!

      ...and completely safe for human consumption.
      Oops...never mind.
  • by jbuhler (489) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:22PM (#4181988) Homepage
    Here's a report summary I found on the technology from the Foundation for Water Research. It's not all that and a bag of chips.

    http://www.fwr.org/wrcsa/832100.htm
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:30PM (#4182009)
    No rocket science here, don't understand why something as simple as the electrolysis of brine makes in on Slashdot ...

    Freshman chemistry tells you:
    NaCl -> Na+ + Cl-
    H2O -> H+ + HO- (actually H3O+ instead of H+ but that's details)

    Then, you add some electricity and you get:

    At cathode (- electrode), H+ -> H2 (bubbles out) which means a lot of Na+ and HO- are left floating around - thus, per Google cached article in the original post: "The catholyte is a powerful alkaline solution used for [...]" -- not surprising at all, as you can see ...

    Then, at anode (+ electrode) you've got HO- and Cl- ... as expected, Cl- -> Cl2 ... but the trick here is that the formed chlorine reacts with water and even better with the NaOH that diffuses from the cathode to form ... bleach (hypochlorite that is) !
    Cl2 + NaOH -> NaCl + NaClO
    Now what does the article say? ... "The anolyte has powerful bactericidal characteristics and is effective in the control of harmful organisms like bacteria, viruses, cysts, and germs."

    Damn that highschool chem :-)

    END-OF-CHEM-LESSON
  • My father's company is involved in medical disinfection, they've had a similar machine for evaluation at their factory a number of years ago. It came from Germany I believe.
    No one could believe it worked. All they did was add salt to water and run a charge through it. All it made was salty water. Despite the manufacturers claim of disinfection, they couldn't verify it.

    I'm not a chemist by any means, but the only thing we could think of was that it created Na+ and Cl- ions, causing some sort of disinfection on contact. Which is believeable, because that's how your home pool works. Interesting....

  • This is SO snake-oil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Sunday September 01, 2002 @07:30PM (#4182012) Homepage Journal
    Oh goodness, catholite and anolyte from the cathode and the anode! What a scientific miracle!

    This is an experiment I did in elementary school.

    It's called electrolysis. You separate salt water into

    • Hydrogen a highly-reactive gas, thus antibiotic.
    • Oxygen, an oxidizer (duh), oxidation is about the most commonly used method of disinfection.
    • Sodium, a highly reactive chemical and thus disinfectant.
    • Chlorine, a superoxidizer (see above).

    Use enough voltage, and maybe you bump oxygen to ozone, a superoxidizer (see above).

    None of this takes any kind of chemist to see.

    Note also that these chemicals are extremely hazardous in their uncombined forms. Remember Apollo 1 and its pure oxygen atmosphere at full sea-level pressure? Skin catches fire almost explosively in that sort of atmosphere - it's truly horrible what pure oxygen can do. Combine hydrogen and oxygen in the right proportions and they will explode. Sodium is poison and explosive when combined with water. Chlorine is poision.

    Some of the more recent explorations into silver as a disinfectant with good tolerance in the body might be more profitable to follow, but also have snake-oil potential because too few people recognize that as another century-old technology that has a mass-market application in swimming pools today.

    Were I you guys, I'd kill the story.

    Bruce

    • Combine hydrogen and oxygen in the right proportions and they will explode.

      Those right proportions are 2 hydrogens for every oxygen. The explosion is from the energy being released. Which is almost as much energy as it took to crack the hydrogen from the oxygen in the first place.

      Oh yeah, when the energy is released you have water again, I hope there is some sodium around at that time.
    • Keep in mind that no more energy is going to be released by this thing then put into it, so the byproducts won't be all that bad.
    • Sodium is poison and explosive when combined with water.

      Dammit.

      Sodium (Na) and the sodium ion (Na+) are not the same thing. Salt is an ionic compound; when I dissolve it in water, I get water and a whole bunch of dissolved Na+ and Cl-. They're ions, which behave chemically in a fashion distinct from the full atom, which is why the glass of salt water doesn't explode and why I don't oxidize my esophagus if I drink it.

    • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @08:58PM (#4182187)
      It's called electrolysis. You separate salt water into

      Hydrogen a highly-reactive gas, thus antibiotic.

      Oxygen, an oxidizer (duh), oxidation is about the most commonly used method of disinfection.

      Sodium, a highly reactive chemical and thus disinfectant.

      Chlorine, a superoxidizer (see above).


      Actually, you just get the most easily reduced/oxidized species coming out. This means chlorine and hydrogen. The water stays water, and the sodium displaces the removed hydrogen to form sodium hydroxide. So, your saltwater turns into oven cleaner, which is not safe to drink, and you get chlorine gas bubbling off, which works quite well as a disinfectant (and is already used).

      I wouldn't worry about the hydrogen. It's not terribly reactive, contrary to what you appear to have heard. It does burn, but you won't have enough present to worry about.

      If they're using this for disinfecting, what's probably happening is that they're producing sodium chlorate. This can be formed instead of chlorine gas if your electrodes are close enough together that the ion species can mix. Sodium chlorate is a strong oxidizing agent; in weak solutions, it should be a decent disinfectant. I *really* wouldn't drink it, though (it's poisonous in significant amounts).

      Contrary to what the article says, I seriously doubt you could mist a letter with chlorate-rich water and have it stay dry while being disinfected. You'd also have the nasty side effect of the letter becoming quite flammable when the mist dried, if you sprayed any substantial amount of solution on it (powerful oxidizer, remember; unstable enough that it can even explode on its own if provoked enough).

      Alternatively, they could just be doing standard electrolysis and burning the hydrogen and chlorine together to get hydrogen chloride. On contact with water (or bacteria) it'll turn into hydrochloric acid, and so would be quite poisonous.

      Or they could be arcing through the air using the water as an electrode, to produce ozone or nitric acid vapour. The salt wouldn't be doing much in this scenario (except making the water conduct).

      In summary, the possible reaction paths are a bit more complicated than you're painting, though I agree that the article's claims are at the very least exaggerated.
      • Actually, you just get the most easily reduced/oxidized species coming out.

        To take this past the point of absurdity, you would eventually run out of the easily reduced substances :-) . And yes, it's silly to expect all of those ingredients to stay elemental.

        Thanks

        Bruce

      • [Sodium chlorate]
        > You'd also have the nasty side effect of the letter becoming quite flammable when the mist dried, if you sprayed any substantial amount of solution on it (powerful oxidizer, remember

        Used to be widely sold in the UK as a weedkiller and occasionally used by schoolchildren to make explosives. Now only sold with added fire retardant because of the IRA.
    • Trivial details... (Score:5, Informative)

      by chazR (41002) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @09:34PM (#4182254) Homepage
      Bruce is right. This is snake oil. Flummery. Rubbish.Tosh. Garbage. Bollocks.


      Unfortunately, some of the things Bruce has stated are not entirely accurate. The general facts are correct. but some bits need modification.


      Hydrogen is reactive. It's only 'highly' reactive if you haven't played with really reactive stuff, like fluorine, chlorine and, er, oxygen. Potasium is fun too.. (I have only seen Cesium once. That's quite enough).

      Skin only catches fire if you get it very hot. An uncontrolled fire in a pure oxygen atmosphere is more likely to vaporize the skin; then the fat underneath will start to burn. Pure oxygen at reasonable (3atm) pressure will not cause spontaneous combustion of people. But if a fire starts in that environment, then you won't be able to put it out. The fire in Apollo 1 was not spontaneous. It was started by an electrical fault. The three astronauts suffocated in flame. Not nice.

      You can happily mix hydrogen and oxygen in a 2:1 ratio. You can pressurize the mixture to astonishing levels. If there's a lot less oxygen, you can breathe the mixture for days at a time (google for "deep hydrogen diving"). If you make a spark, then you'll understand just how reactive oxygen is. The lesson learnt will be very short, and terminally instructive.

      But hydrogen and oxygen are not hypergolic. Ask a rocket scientist. Even the Space Shuttle needs a match to get it going.

      Sodium is a disinfectant. In the same way that a raging forest fire is disinfectant. Kids! treating your grazed knees with sodium metal may sting! Also, your parent's lawyers will have to contend with a stupidity counter-claim.

      Oxidizing agents and reducing agents are defined by their ability to grab or release electrons.

      If you want to understand this stuff, find somebody who knows what "Gibb's free energy" is about. Then, get them to explain it to me...

    • It rather depends on the concentration...
      The sodium will combine with the water to produce lye.
      The hydrogen will go away.
      The chlorine will go away, but more slowly. Some of it will combine with the water to product HCl. This will combine with the lye to give salt water.

      It might well be a decent disinfectant, at the right voltage. And if it's weak enough, I suppose it would be approximately harmless. Disinfectants don't need to be particularly strong solutions... but I would tend to avoid using lye.
    • So you have built a device which cheaply and effectively does this for flowing water? This is only snake oil if it isn't effective.
  • This was already on the news this week. It's being touted as a non-toxic way to clean a building of anthrax and reoccupy the building within hours.

  • Ok, when you dump salt (NaCl) into water, it instantly dissolves into the respective ions, Na+ and Cl-. Cl- ions are not what are used for sterilizing swimming pools; Sodium hypochlorite is used for this, that splits into Na+ and a Hypochlorite- ion. Hypochlorite is very aggressive & will reduce (give an electron to) practically anything.

    What makes me suspicious of the Emerald device is the following line:

    "The catholyte is a powerful alkaline solution used for treating industrial effluent like the ones from Electro-plating, photographic, and/or textile plants. Catholyte has powerful properties for flocculation, coagulation, bionutrient transfer, cleaning purposes, and neutralizing the toxicity of heavy metals."

    Ok, if the catholyte is a powerful alkaline solution, it then follows that the anolyte is a powerful acid solution. Can't make one without the other. And powerful acid solutions aren't exactly benign.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @08:14PM (#4182111) Homepage Journal
    The reaction isn't, as some have said:

    NaCl + 2H20 + electricity -> Na + Cl + 2H2 + O2

    Rather, you get a hypochlorous acid ion, an a sodium hydroxide ion. In effect, the reverse of mixing hypochlorous acid and lye.

    However, you get it in VERY dilute quantities, nowhere near what you'd need to damage human skin. But if you are an itty bitty microbe, the oxidizing effect is deadly.

    Really, this is just a "bleach on demand" sort of thing.
  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday September 01, 2002 @08:20PM (#4182123) Journal
    ...for the device's operation.

    No doubt the electric field applied causes small bubbles to form within the solution, and then rapidly collapse. This collapse leads to extroardinarily high temperatures and pressures, which in turn cause nuclear fusion to take place. Stray gammas generated by this fusion result in the destruction of nearby pathogens.

    Seriously, this technique sounds like a load of crap, for the most part. I can buy the electrochemical action bit, sort of. Pure molten NaCl (salt, hereafter) will electrolyze to form sodium and chlorine gas, sure enough. With a little creative engineering, it is possible to separate these to products and collect them for later use. Indeed, this is exactly what is done for commercial production of these two elements.

    On contact with water, pure Na will form a solution of (aggressively basic) sodium hydroxide plus some hydrogen gas. (This, I assume, is the catholyte we hear about.) Chlorine in water forms an acidic solution which is, to be fair, definitely germicidal.

    I see two problems. The first is technical. In a water solution, the electrolytic yields of sodium and chlorine are typically both very low, because oxygen and hydrogen gas are preferentially formed first. (There are sound thermodynamic reasons for this.) Maybe these experimenters have gotten around this somehow, perhaps using exotic catalysts or something.

    The second problem is a bit more difficult. If the two component solutions (sodium + water and chlorine + water) are kept separate, individually they would be quite toxic. Brought together, there is a very quick reaction that brings us right back to salt and water--not a particularly powerful disinfectant, and what we started with before we had a mystical black box.

    I can think of some other more creative possibilities, as well. Perhaps they're talking about generating some sort of activated state oxygen to do the dirty work (the salt just makes the water conductive)--in which case, they're definitely frauds. There just aren't any activated oxygen states that are stable long enough (in water) to get to the surface to be disinfected. Atomic oxygen might do it, but that's already been invented--and I'm pretty sure it won't last very long in solution either.

    Finally, from the article, we have the quote:

    f a letter is suspected of containing anthrax spores, it could be passed through a dry mist made from the Emerald solution and the letter would be sterilized.

    The letter wouldn't even get wet. Anyone exposed to the spores could bathe in the solution and be germ free.

    Erm. Dry mist. Sure. What's in this dry mist, exactly? Chlorine? Nope--it's way toxic. Sodium? Nope--it's a metal. Hydrogen? Um. Yeah. Oxygen--maybe, but atomic oxygen generators already exist (they're used for restoring artwork and whitening teeth). Singlet oxygen will kill things, but it only lasts a few nanoseconds in water.

    So, to conclude this lengthy post--I call bullshit!

    • Alas, what comes of posting too quickly. To clarify my position...

      This device, through the small quantities of chlorine plus nasty (biochemically speaking) radicals generated through normal water electrolysis will probably very easily kill nearly anything that's actually in the water that passes through the device. I stand by my assertion that there is little or no residual purifying ability to the liquid that comes out, and the notion that a "dry mist" (whatever that is) from it will kill anthrax sounds like nonsense.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @08:20PM (#4182124)

    Oh the pain! The people complaining about the state of science education in the US are RIGHT!!

    Electrolysis of salt solution produces a solution of sodium hypochlorite, similar to Clorox bleach. Nothing wrong with that, this is a GREAT disinfectant. But new technology? I DON'T THINK SO. We have been chlorinating water supplies since 1908 or so.

    Some technological historians believe that the addition of chlorine to drinking water is the primary reason for increased life expectancies in the 20th century, and claim that this one innovation has done more to prevent disease than the rest of modern medicine combined.

    Here are the reactions:

    anode: 2Cl- = Cl2(aq) + 2e-
    cathode: 2e- + 2Na+ + 2H20 = H2(g) + 2NaOH

    2NaOH + Cl2 = 2NaOCl + 2H+

    To stabilize the NaOCl it is best to add a bit extra NaOH. (See LeChatlier).

    You can use the H2 to power your laptop. (See fuel cells.)

    • Egad! The state of high school chemistry today!

      While your chemistry is correct, this is not the reaction they are talking about. The production of sodium hypochlorite is not an electrochemical process. It takes place without the aid of an electrical current. This is why NaOH is commonly used as a scrubbing fluid to remove Cl2 from a gas stream.

      The reaction we are talking about is the electrolysis of salt water:
      H20 + NaCl + electricity -> NaOH + Cl2 + H2

      A mixture of chlorine gas and weak brine called the anolyte leaves the cell on one side, and the caustic soda (NaOH) and hydrogen gas mixture called the catholyte leaves on the other.

  • the chemistry behind this is basic and proven. There are numerous saftey issues inherent in the process and there is not enough doc on the site to see if this is a new and valid application of the process or a 'snake-oil' sales oppurtunity.
  • Salt water is essentially hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and sodium hydroxide (lye); it's just that, when combined, they basically exactly cancel each other out.

    If you electrify the salt water, they separate. If you turn off the power, they recombine. Anything that was near one side or the other will be pretty effectively fried. Of course, you're not going to entirely separate them, so there's a middle section where it's still just salt water. This device does some fluid mechanics and such to pass anything that is in the incoming water through both regions before the water (now recombined) comes out of the device. It's actually a bit of tricky engineering to make sure that absolutely nothing can get through without going through both regions, which is what this is all about.

    The electrolysis experiment is trivial. The trick is being thorough when you've got water flowing through.
  • So, aside from oxidising bacteria, this thing can also undo the side effects caused by them? Gee, i always thought if you disinfected spoiled milk, you get cheese, or somehing close
  • by gerardrj (207690) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @09:23PM (#4182234) Journal
    My (any many other) swimming pools use this process to eliminate or at least reduce the need for added chlorine.
    The water in the pool is kept slightly salty. The pump/filter system then add electricity to the water in a controlled manner that causes the salt and water to "decompose" in to the constituent molecules that are deadly to bacteria (mainly chlorine and sodium). As the water leaves the control area the molecules recombine (mostly) to form salt water again. Some chlorine remains free and circulates in the pool.
    the only thing different about the Russian system seems to be they may use more power as the story claims the device "dissolves"microbes. Then again chlorine "dissolves" microbes through oxidation.

  • I can't tell whether this is just some sort of Slashdot hangup or whether people actually think the plural of "virus" is "virii". Look it up in a dictionary. [dictionary.com] The plural of "virus" is "viruses"--no other form is acceptable in English.

    "Virii" isn't not a Latin plural of any known word. The most plausible latin nominative plural would be "viri" [nd.edu], but some people don't buy that [perl.com].

  • Even if the linked article proves to be true, we will never see widespread adoption of this low-cost treatment. Why? Because it directly threatens the large profit margins enjoyed by pharmaceutical companies the world over. Take silver, for instance. A well-known anti-microbial, it is cheap to process (effective colloidal solutions require only a few ppm of Ag), and has a devastating effect on many harmful microbes. So why aren't we all brewing up our own silver colloid and treating so-called "mycin-resistant" microbes? Because to do so would dig deeply in the billions of dollars pocketed by the big pharmaceuticals every year. Since the pharmaceuticals pretty much hold the pursestrings for the AMA, you won't see the AMA throwing in their support either.

    Proven medical treatments, such as silver, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc. (proven not by a few piddly years of research, but in most cases many decades or centuries of use) will never be embraced by the mainstream medical establishment as long as the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to dictate medical policy and control the way we are permitted to keep ourselves healthy.
    • Even if the linked article proves to be true, we will never see widespread adoption of this low-cost treatment. Why? Because it directly threatens the large profit margins enjoyed by pharmaceutical companies the world over.

      Actually these things exist and you can buy them to clean a pool. My understanding is they either just invented a better way to move the fluids around inside the device so more of the water touches the Na+ and Cl-, or they are just trying to let more people know about this. The real reason this won't become widely used is that clorene is a chemical byproduct of creating fertilizer, which just happens to be a pretty good disinfectant. The most widespread adoption will do is decrease the cost of clorene and increase the cost of fertilizer slightly. They chemical companies that produce clorene could pay you to take it and still make a profit since fertilizer is such a boon to farmers.

      Not that I don't think chemical companies would resort to dirty tricks. They just don't need to for clorene to be produced. It's good for their profit margins if fertilizer is cheaper, but not essential for the industry to exist. The only way it would seriously hurt them is if they couldn't pay people to take it, and had to pay for dumping it. Presumably after combining it with something to make it neutral.
    • by texchanchan (471739) <ccrowley@gmaiLISPl.com minus language> on Sunday September 01, 2002 @10:52PM (#4182431)
      Here's the page [quackwatch.org] on colloidal silver at Quackwatch. Apparently the stuff can turn you permanently gray anywhere you're naturally light--skin, whites of the eyes, some of your insides (lungs? fat?) etc. And, the producers are big on hype, not so interested in rigorous testing or even keeping microorganisms out of their medicine bottles. See also this FDA site [fda.gov]. As for a conspiracy preventing effective medicines from reaching the consumer, isn't it obvious that researchers, pharmaceutical company stockholders, scientists, and doctors are all ALSO consumers? They and their families are just as likely to get cancer or heart disease as you are. Think they'll suppress something that could cure their kid of leukemia so that the company can profit? Give me a break.
      • A little ignorance goes a long way at Quackwatch...and anyways, if you read it on the 'net, it must be true.

        Turn you "permanently gray"? Like a photographic plate? Please...do a little more research. Are your eyes gray? Mine aren't...and if you were born in the US, you got a dose of silver nitrate right after you popped out at birth.

        It's people like you, closed-minded, but otherwise intelligent, who (1) believe everything they read on the web, (2) think that the government is here to help us, and (3) believe the medical industry doesn't let profit margins get in the way of keeping people healthy.

        To quote you, give me a break.

      • Colloidal silver won't cure AIDS or a lot of other diseases, and I wouldn't want to endorse the mail order trade in it. But it's important to remember that silver and silver compounds were, and still are, used for treating or preventing some infections and except for occasional skin discoloration seem quite safe. Conceivably, they might have some other uses if someone invested the money to do the research.

        The real reason people don't look at such medicines is not a conspiracy but lack of economic incentive: unpatentable medicines are of little economic interest to drug companies. That's why we get dozens of useless cold treatments and no drugs for many other diseases.

    • This poor woman [together.net] wants to tell you about colloidal silver. She took it as a child, back when it was a standard ingredient prescribed by a regular MD. So much for it being alternative. Mainstream or alternative, it made her look permanently alien and did not cure anything or prevent her getting cancer in adulthood.
    • For those who truly believe in homeopathic medicines, I strongly recommend a homeopathic dose of oxygen, for about five minutes. It'll permanently cure you of everything that could ail you for the rest of your (short) life.
    • The FDA requires that drugs be "safe and effective". "Effective" means "in a double-blind test, where neither doctor nor patient knows who got the placebo, significantly more people on the drug being tested got better". The "alternative medicine" community has fought being subjected to the "effective" test every step of the way.

      In fact, most new drugs don't pass the "effective" test. Most are rejects. This is good; progress comes from surviving testing. Once something has been demonstrated to work at all, there's the possibility of figuring how to make it work better. Without testing, nothing gets beyond the "sort of works, maybe" stage.

      The FDA tolerates homeopathic drugs for "self-limiting conditions", i.e. things on the threshold of hypochondria, but not for anything serious. It's worth noting that all the "alternative therapies" for AIDS proposed by various activists, none are still taken seriously.

      There has been, famously, at least one major attempt by the drug industry to stop a new treatment that threatened profits. This was the discovery that ulcers are a bacterial disease that can be cured with antibiotics. [cdc.gov] Drug companies were making billions selling people Tagamet and such for years, when a two-week course of antibiotics usually knocks the disease out permanently. This was discovered in 1982, but it took a decade to convince people. The Center for Disease Control made a major effort to get the word out to doctors, too many of whom get their drug info from drug company sales reps. This worked, and finally, Tagamet has been relegated to an over-the-counter medication for indigestion. That's an unusual case, but it's real.

  • by RoosterT (196177) on Sunday September 01, 2002 @10:05PM (#4182321)
    The chemical reaction:
    H2O + NaCl + e- -> Cl2 + H2 + NaOH
    is one of the most important in chemistry and has been in industrial use for well over 110 years. To say this is "not exactly super-new technology" is a HUGE understatement, since this is the same basic technology that has been chlorinating drinking water in the U.S. since 1908.

    The new (relatively speaking) technology here appears to be the miniaturization of the electrolytic cell and membrane. While this is interesting in and of itself, I cannot see how this will be the big lifesaver they are claiming. One would think that most hospitals can and do purchase disinfectants already and would not really need to generate these hazardous chemicals onsite, even in small quantities. I mean, think of the risks: Cl2 (poisonous gas), H2 (explosive gas), and NaOH (caustic soda). If a hospital does not have the resources to buy these relatively cheap chemicals, why would they have the resources (electricity to name one) to buy and operate these little machines?

    Just my $.02

  • 1. Get Water
    2. Add Salt
    3. Put in energy
    4. ?
    5. Profit!

  • Run a couple of volts through salt water, the
    Na+ ions go to the cathode, the Cl- ions go the
    anode and discharged to Cl which disolves to
    form Sodium Hypochlorite this is the main
    component of household bleach.

    2Na+ + 2H20 + 2e- -> 2NaOH + H2
    2Cl- -> Cl2 + 2e-

    Cl2 + H20 = HCl + HCl0
    HClO + NaOH -> NaClO + H20

    Similar reaction will happen with any other
    disolved salts in the water.
  • Why do all the bullshit stories always come out of russia? Wasn't there some crazy story about a desktop supercomputer also that was developed in russia?
  • Skeptics should read CSICOP's guide to critising [csicop.org] before commenting. Being rude, and casually passing off claims as foolish does not make a good argument.

    -Sean
  • Bacteria can mutate, and so can viruses. Some bacteria have already developed immunity to antibiotic. If we use this solution on a large scale, won't bateria and viruses develop immunity after a while?
  • It makes me more resistant..

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell

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