Electrodes – electrolysis – electrolysis cell | What should I pay attention to when buying a water ionizer?
Axel O.: What do I have to pay attention to when buying a water ionizer when it comes to the electrolytic cell?
- The external size or volume of the cell (“the size of a VHS tape”) is relatively unimportant. What is important is the electrode surface that comes into contact with the water flowing through it. So ask your salesperson not only about the number of electrodes, but also about their size. The more square centimeters of contact area between the platinum coating and the water, the higher the performance potential of an ionizer. Hard water requires more power than soft water. Water rich in bicarbonate also increases performance requirements. The cells commonly used in household appliances have between 400 and 2000 cm2 of contact area. But the surface is only a selling point for hard water. There are other factors.
- The wattage of the power supply is of less importance as this is the maximum wattage, which should always be sufficient because the power supplies are precisely tailored to the electrode surface. The actual electricity consumed is mainly determined by the electrolyte content of the water. The water ultimately “demands” the maximum amount of electricity from the power supply. In addition, clever control electronics can also be used to maximize the performance of a small electrode surface. Some devices still have old power supplies with transformers. Due to their lower efficiency, these consume more than modern switching power supplies. In addition, they generate “electrosmog”, the effects of which on water have so far been discussed inconclusively. In any case, there is no measurable difference in the active water produced with regard to the power supplies. You can also drive to Rome with a car that needs 20 liters/100 km to the water features in front of the Villa d'Este. It simply changes the ecological fingerprint that is left for posterity. But the goal is also achieved.
- Standard for household ionizer electrodes is platinum-coated titanium. The precious metal platinum is applied to the contact surface as a catalyst in order to increase the performance of the anode when releasing oxygen and to prevent its corrosion through oxidation. The choice and quality of this material prevents metal ions from migrating from the anodes into the water, for example with so-called sacrificial anodes, which slowly dissolve. The cathode, on the other hand, is not subject to corrosion. Since in modern water ionizers the electrodes are sometimes used as anode and sometimes as cathode to protect against limescale, the cathode is also coated with platinum. There are different qualities of the type of coating: spray platinum – galvanic dipping bath – galvanic dipping bath with subsequent baking in the oven. You can usually see which process was chosen by looking at the warranty periods. Sprayed electrodes usually only have the statutory minimum guarantee period. Reputable providers provide information about the layer thickness (up to 0,3 μm) and surface structure of the electrodes.
- Be sure to ask about the shape of the electrodes. If the electrodes are not all designed exactly the same and have a smooth surface, asymmetrical current flows can quickly lead to local calcification, which then builds up layers that press on the diaphragms and puncture them. This applies to “mashed” electrodes, which usually have slanted slots, to perforated electrodes and especially to so-called honeycomb electrodes. In my experience, devices with such electrodes only work problem-free in soft water areas. Any irregularities have a negative effect on hard water, even if a –> Limescale protection system is installed according to the principle of flow reversal. The lime then easily finds niches in which there is less fluid dynamics and spreads further from there.
- The best-kept secret of electrolytic cells is their fluid dynamics. How is the water guided through the cell so that most of the water molecules come into the high-voltage field of the electrode surface? With flow ionizers, the contact time for the flow through the cell is well under one second. If the water is poorly managed, only the “edges” of the water flow will be ionized. Even the best voltage control software cannot compensate for engineering errors in flow control. That's why some devices get more power out of a small electrode area than others out of a larger one. Ultimately, the end user only has a direct comparison with the same source water and the same flow rate. For an objective comparison, the pre-filters must also be bridged, as some manufacturers increase the performance by adding chemicals there (—> chemical water ionization). In order to prevent such comparisons and exclude the use of other filters, some manufacturers have started to equip the filters with electronic monitoring chips. If the chip has expired or is not present, the electrolytic cell is no longer supplied with power. There are ways to get around this, but it requires technical effort.
- However, the layperson can easily check an important feature of fluid dynamics: If more alkaline than acidic activated water flows out of the water ionizer, the performance of a cell cannot be fully utilized. This “power limitation” arises because the larger amount of alkaline active water does not have as much contact time with the electrodes as the smaller amount of acidic water. This means that a device with 7 electrodes and 1039 cm2 contact area only achieves a pH value of 9 with the same water flow and neutralized conditions, while a device with 665 cm2 even reaches pH 9,8. Advertising brochures like to gloss over this by talking about a higher proportion of alkaline water or “less acidic water waste”. At least you can deal with such faulty designs by selecting the function button for sour water and then tapping the alkaline active water from the outlet intended for sour water. Unfortunately, you usually hear annoying warnings from the sound chip. For this purpose, water ionizers with asymmetrical water distribution also tap stronger alkaline active water. The most natural are water ionizers, which separate the water in half according to the symmetrical structure of a classic electrolysis cell. Saving wastewater makes sense when flushing toilets, showering, washing, washing dishes and wherever a lot of water is used: Since we rarely need more than 3 liters per day of alkaline activated water to drink, the saving is 1 to 2 liters acidic wastewater is really completely nonsensical. —> Reverse osmosis filter require several times more wastewater, although they do not even provide water of drinking quality!
- With the Hydrionator® Flow Improvement (HIT) technology, which I developed with Dipl. Ing. Yasin Akgün and Joseph Paul, the ratio of acidic water and alkaline water in almost every commercially available flow ionizer can be improved using an easy-to-install accessory so that the performance in the basic range is improved by up to 1,5 pH.
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