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.
Chlorine

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!

6 comments:

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...

-Merriwether

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.

-Merriwether

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.