When an electric current is run through salt water in a specific manner, it produces a substance called hypochlorite, a form of chlorine. This process is called electrochlorination and is commonly used to desalinate water and kill the bacteria it contains in order to make it safe for human consumption and use. Electrochlorination, because it removes the salt from water, is a process that is often used on seawater. There are many advantages to using this technique to purify seawater, especially compared to other methods.
One of the main advantages of using electrochlorination of seawater as a means to desalinate and clean it is that the actual process is rather easy to accomplish. It involves running the seawater through an area that contains a diode on one side and an anode on the other. The electrolysis happens when a direct current is introduced to the system which, in turn, produces the hypochlorite solution. The final step in the process is to remove the hydrogen that was also produced, leaving behind the desired chlorinated water.
Seawater is also commonly used during this process because it is relatively inexpensive to gather. The seawater used in electrochlorination contains a high level of salt, generally greater than.05 percent. When seawater with a high level of salinity goes through the electrochlorination process, the end-product contains 1 percent or less of sodium hypochlorite. While this dilution is considered safe for humans, it still works very well to disinfect the water and kill any bacteria.
In places where there is no access to fresh water, electrochlorination is essential to obtaining usable water for humans. This is the technique that most cruise ships and war chips use because an almost unlimited supply of drinkable water can be produced. It is also commonly employed on small islands and other areas where there are no water treatment plants and no fresh water to use, but where there is an abundance of seawater.
One of the newest, and most beneficial, uses of the electrochlorination process is in third world countries where diseases associated with contaminated water are ravaging the population. Many charities have been formed with a mission to supply electrochlorination systems to places like Africa and the Middle East where dry weather makes it all but impossible for humans to obtain fresh water. Since the introduction of chlorine as a means of sanitizing water about one hundred years ago, diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dysentery have been almost eradicated in the U.S. and the low cost of electrochlorination systems is beginning to do the same in these third world countries.
Many environmentalists have stood against chlorination processes in the past because they produced harmful byproducts. Electrochlorination, however, is changing the way chlorination is viewed. It is considered an eco-friendly technique because the only byproduct produced is hydrogen, which is safe for the environment after it is effectively removed. Studies have not been able to find a single harmful effect of electrochlorination on the environment. In fact, it is even much safer for those supervising the treatment because the toxic chlorine gas is never touched. This is because instead of introducing the chlorine to the water, as with other chlorination methods, the chlorine is produced in extremely small amounts by the reaction process itself.
With all the benefits of electrochlorination, including that it is inexpensive, affective, and safe, it is no wonder this process for producing consumable water is becoming much more popular. It is currently on pace to soon become the chlorination technique used in the majority of water desalination and sterilization processes.