The many wonderful possibilities of ozone (1898)

Original publication: The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, Calif.) Date: October 23, 1898
Categories: 1890s, Discoveries & inventions, Health & medicine, Newspapers
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Wonderful possibilities of ozone 1898

Wonderful possibilities of ozone

With the new machine just made for its production it will cure consumption, make whisky old in six weeks and do other remarkable things

At last a perfect apparatus for the generation of ozone has been produced, and now new wonders in medical science are to be expected, unless all indications fail.

Ozone has long been known as one of the most wonderful of curative agents. But heretofore it has been impossible to obtain it quickly and plentifully in a pure state.

With the crudest kind of apparatus a number of practitioners in San Francisco have accomplished feats that surprised even themselves. One physician claims to have cured a case of consumption by ozone alone. Some question might arise as to whether the man had consumption; but the fact remains that the man was deathly sick, exhibiting all the outward indications of the dread disease, and was cured by inhaling ozone.

In this case the apparatus used was only a glass lantern globe with a piece of picture wire arranged on the inside. One end of the globe was closed with a sheet of paraffine. This was attached to an ordinary static machine and the patient placed his mouth over the open end of the globe and inhaled all the ozone produced, Cases are also recorded of many other diseases being cured, such as rheumatism, gout and bronchitis.

What is this wonderful ozone?

To describe it briefly is not possible, but it might be described as a gas generated by decomposing atmosphere.

For more than a century it has been known that air and oxygen acquire a peculiar odor when exposed to the action of electric sparks, and though Schonbein ascertained nearly half a century ago that this odor is due to a distinct form of matter that has been called ozone, which is produced by the electrolysis of dilute sulphuric acid, by the action of electric discharge in the air, and as a product of the slow oxidation of phosphorus, chemists are still trying to learn the exact conditions of the formation of this substance, and still investigating some of its simplest reactions; while inventors are but beginning the work of making it useful to man.

The great drawback in the past has been the lack of an apparatus to produce the ozone in the state in which it is desired.

Ozone has never yet been obtained as a gas in the pure state, but from the properties of mixtures containing it we cannot doubt that gaseous ozone would be blue in color, and condense at low temperatures to an indigo blue liquid, which explodes violently on contact with a flame.

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The ozone in mixtures, such as are produced by the electrification of air or oxygen, is very instable, being resolved into common oxygen with explosive violence if suddenly compressed without previous cooling; and even under atmospheric pressure it cannot long be preserved except at rather low temperatures. This characteristic instability of ozone is at once the cause of its most interesting properties and of its possible usefulness.

Molecules of common oxygen contain but two atoms of the element, while the molecules of ozone contain three such atoms, and it would seem that the atoms hold together much less firmly in the larger molecules than when they are united in pairs; consequently ozone acts as a powerful oxidizer, readily giving up part of its oxygen to oxidizable substances, while the rest returns to the ordinary form of the element, except in certain cases when it is completely absorbed.

The action of ozone would come under the head of what would be called an oxidizer. Chemists already have, it is true, plenty of oxidizers that can be used as far as they go with good effect. Many of these are inexpensive. But not even hydrogen peroxide, which can now be obtained comparatively cheaply, is quite so simple in its action as ozone, for this substance, which consists, as we have seen, of oxygen and of oxygen alone, when used as an oxidizer does not leave any inconvenient residue such as accompanies the action of many other oxidizing agents. Hence, a field for the employment of ozone may be found whenever a simple oxidizing agent is required. Thus, for example, it has been suggested that it might conveniently be used for bleaching beeswax, starch or bones, in the manufacture of degras for leather-makers, in preparing drying oils for the manufacturers of varnishes, or again, according to Wiedermann, to hasten the aging of whisky.

Port wine treated with ozone soon puts on an appearance that under ordinary circumstances it would not acquire in years.

As an oxidizer, the action of ozone would be to destroy certain cells of elements and all kinds of bacteria. Much of the work that has not been attempted heretofore by the cruder appliances can now be worked out by the new apparatus.

It has long been known that ozone acts as a preservative of flesh, arresting and preventing putrifaction. When it is obtained in sufficient quantities its uses in this direction are almost beyond estimate.

Ozone, as has already been said, was first noticed in air which had been exposed to the sparks of electrical machines; but only very small quantities can be obtained in this way, and it is better to expose the air to a sort of electric rain composed of showers of very fine sparks, such as were employed by Andrews, or to the so-called silent discharge in one of the various forms of “Siemens induction tube.” This in its simplest form consists of a long thin test-tube sealed at its open end into a slightly larger tube, the latter being provided with a narrow tube at each end, so that a current of gas may be passed between the two test-tubes. If the inner tube of such an apparatus be filled with dilute sulphuric acid and connected with one of the electrodes of an electrical machine, and if the outer tube be plunged in a bath of dilute acid which is connected with the other electrode of the machine, while air or oxygen is passed through the apparatus, a glow or a shower of fine sparks will act on the gas, and charge it more or less strongly with ozone ere it escapes.

For medical purposes the new apparatus invented by Dr Ford of London, England, takes the form of a vacuum tube containing a metallic rod. This is surrounded by an armature made of aluminum and armed with points. When the latter and the metallic rod are joined up to a coil or to a step-up transformer a glow makes its appearance, and the air between the two electrodes is rapidly ozonized. If a stream of ozonized air is required for inhalation or must be conveyed to any particular locality, the above little apparatus is surrounded by a glass jacket.

Air or oxygen can then be pumped through the apparatus, and then delivered from a celluloid trumpet for inhalation, or conveyed by a tube to the required locality. The use of indiarubber should be avoided in this part of the apparatus, as indiarubber perishes with astonishing rapidity when exposed to the action of ozone.

With such an apparatus a very small static electrical machine is sufficient to operate it. The current is constant, and the ozone generated must be as near pure as it is possible to make it. Being all formed in the tube, none of it escapes, and the patient inhales all that is produced. Judging by the wonderful action of ozone in the past with crude apparatus, there is no doubt that the modern improvement places us on the threshold of some astounding discoveries.

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Source publication: The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, Calif.)

Publication date: October 23, 1898

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