Sunday, August 20, 2006

Death in a small bottle.

Chlorine gas destroyed the respiratory organs of its victims and this led to a slow death by asphyxiation.
The War to End All Wars

I hate it when a plans falls apart.

I was supposed to spend the weekend at Boots, Wheels and Treads, a big sale of military equipment and vehicles. We are talking Roman swords, WWII tanks and class III weapons!!! Talk about a kid before Christmas! I've been looking forward to this since April.

Unfortunately my inside man (ex-marine) developed a serious medical issue about a month ago. Surgery, meds and the thrill of playing with flamethrowers just wasn't enough to get his boots back on. Thursday night he called to cancel. Internal bleeding and a five-hour car ride don't go well together.

So, no Christmas (though I do still have most of my internal organs unlike my buddy, so no complaints!).

Fortunately(?!) a neat little project popped up. As you know, I spend a lot of time in the woods. One of the main concerns out there is having enough water. In Texas heat water is crucial and so I always pack a liter or more of emergency water on top of what I think I'll need. This is heavy. Sure, I could boil water to purify it, but I don't feel like drinking hot water when it's 90F out. I do have a water purifcation filter pump but it's kind of clunky. I also have some Polar Pure but I just feel like using it.

But for about $100 I could have a military-quality MIOX water purification unit. This thing is awesome! You just add a little salt water and it electrochemically converts it into chlorine gas, sodium hypochlorite and assorted other strong oxidizers. Basically, (ha ha ha) it makes a supper-strong bleach solution that, when added to impure water, will kill all the bacteria and virii (note to readers: I'm not getting into the "are virii truely alive or not" argument again!). The MIOX device is only slightly larger than a big magic marker and can purify something like 200 liters of water with one set of batteries and a bit of table salt. It is the king of water purifiers.

But $100? Yowza! That's a lot of money for something that's really little more than two lead pencils and a 9-volt battery(scroll down to "Lab Hints"). Sure, the MIOX unit has a whole bunch of bells and whistles, in the end it's just pumping electrons into salt water.

I can do that for a lot less than $100.

So instead of checking out assorted weapons this weekend I ended up making chlorine gas in the kitchen. Instead of the MIOX's platinum electrodes (inert) I used pencil lead (graphite) electrodes (mostly inert) stuck through the cap lid and sealed with 5-minute epoxy. These electrodes were then fastened to a 9-volt battery clip. Instead of a computer-controlled sensor measuring exactly how much hypochlorite was being made I just let it run until I smelled a bit of chlorine gas. Currently, (ha ha ha) I have no idea how much of the oxidative products I'm making versus how much I need, but I should be able to analyze all this at work this week. Sometimes being a chemist has it's good points.

Once I get the bugs worked (ha ha ha) I'll post more details on this thing. Who knows, one of youu might want to build your own.

Adventure! Excitement! Chemistry Puns!


CrazyRideLady said...

Dr Frankestein soon?

Merriwether the Adventurer said...

Bah, Dr. Frankenstien is a piker! Heck, for my master's degree I turned a common virus into a boron-10 "supertanker" and rearranged it's binding/entry proteins so that it could only get into cancerous cells. Then when the virii-infested cancer cells were hit with a neutron beam the boron-10 would undergo a nuclear explosion destroying everything within the distance of one cell diameter. It was really cool! You can look it up under "Boron Neutron Capture Therapy".

*sigh* It would have worked too if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their stupid dog...


Michael said...

This is a pretty nifty experiment. I wish I wasn't a mouth-breathing yokel that barely comprehends addition, maybe I could do something with electricity, too!

I was/am seriously getting a MIOX but the lack of a filtration system kinds of bothers me. Even if the water is perfectly safe to drink, I'm not wild about drinking gritty water. I was thinking about including a flocculent in my kit if I decided to go with the MIOX. In reality, I'll probably eventaully do that and get a mechanical filter for backup.

BNCT sounds pretty nifty, but of course nuclear explosions tend to be. =O How do you get the virus particle to the tumor without it getting intercepted by the immune system? Maybe a bit off topic.

Merriwether the Adventurer said...

The plan was to inject a whole lot of the virii into the tumor, wait a few hours for them to get inside the cancer cells, then fire up the neutron beam. The whole thing would be over before the body could mount an immune response.


Thanks For The Ride Lady said...

I'm going to paint my nails tonight. Yeah. That's the best I can do - no comparison to BNCT. I knew in high school that I was screwed when my computer started smoking and your's was creating some magical line drawing. Really, mine was on fire, remember? We had a fire drill and everything!

Merriwether the Adventurer said...

Yeah, I remember that. Your poor computer! Weird, I've run into several classmates over the years and each brought up my computer artwork. I didn't realize at the time what a stir it had made.My favorite was Aladin flying on his magic carpet above the Taj Mahal. Those Apple IIe's were pretty neat.