Saturday, 13 August 2016 11:59

Friend or Foe: the Oxidation Reaction

Everyday, oxidation happens all around us. Depending on where it happens though, the results of oxidation could either be beneficial or harmful to the surroundings. We wanted to take a brief moment to discuss oxidation within the water industry, because we’ve heard some interesting stories from the Water Well Journal surrounding whether oxidation is a friend or foe to groundwater, which directly affects our industry. Before we dive into it though, what exactly is oxidation? 




1. The combination of a substance with oxygen.

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Yes, oxidation is when oxygen unites with another substance, but could this be beneficial or harmful to groundwater? Let’s take a deeper look. 

Over time, chemists discovered that oxidation does not necessarily always require oxygen in order to take place. Sometimes it can simply be a transfer of electrons between two elements or ions, where one substance can lose electrons to an oxidizing agent. Now, after this was established, scientists established the “oxidation state” of each of the known elements. This means that as elements react with other elements, electrons are transferred, and the oxidation state of the elements changes. There are many types of oxidation reactions that can occur, but let’s look at some of the few most common. 

One of the most common reactions that can take place is within fire or combustion, because heat and light are generated due to an electron bond breaking .The smoke that is produced from a fire would be considered the oxidized product of this specific reaction. Another common oxidation reaction is found in respiration, or when life forms breathe. We start by inhaling oxygen, but we exhale carbon dioxide. The oxygen we inhale is used to oxidize organic nutrients in our body that is found in our foods, and the yield from this oxidation reaction is energy that we use every day.

Now that we have a bit more of an understanding of oxidation reactions, let’s look at how it affects groundwater, specifically within corrosion. Corrosion happens when a material deteriorates due to the interactions the material experiences with the surrounding environment. Many forms of corrosion that take place within the groundwater industry are a result of the electron transfer process between materials, causing one of the materials to deteriorate. There are many types of corrosion though, one of which that we observe in the groundwater industry that is directly affected by the absence of oxygen. This form of corrosion is called concentration cell corrosion, and it can develop underneath deposit buildups on structures or equipment that can cause severe damage. Periodic removal of this buildup can reduce this type of corrosion from occurring, but it is still something we have to keep a close eye on. 

There are also microbial influenced or induced corrosions that can occur as well, and this can include the production of acids or enzymes. This can cause degradation as well, and is most commonly found when bacteria oxidizes with iron. It could be a residual problem with water wells as a result, and is another thing that we as water professionals keep an eye on periodically. 

Now, oxidation is not just a bad thing for the groundwater industry though, because it does have some positive effects as well. We can use oxidation to help with testing water or improving water quality. It all started back when Dr. John Ryznar had created the “Nail Test.” With this test, a nail is placed in a glass containt with aquifer water and then observed over a 24 hour period. If there was a chemical reaction that caused the water to discolor, we knew there needed to be some disinfection of the water supply taking place. Over time, we have been able to develop disinfection processes that need the application of oxidation chemicals, so within this scenario, oxidation is a very good thing. 

At this point, we have various oxidation chemicals available within the groundwater industry, including hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, bromine, and more commonly found, chlorine. These agents all help us with water cleanup and disinfection, this way we can keep our families healthy and safe. At the end of the day, oxidation is a close friend to us here in the groundwater industry, providing us with safe disinfection profits and other residual benefits. When it comes to water cleanup, disinfection, or if you’re looking for a free water test, you can count on the team here at Aqua Pump. To get your water tested for free, give us a call at 1 800-642-0420.

Published in Water

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