A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to devices for treating hard water, and more specifically to a system that controls the crystal structure of calcium compounds in water.
Swimming pools, spas, fountains and bath fixtures have a common enemy: hard water deposits. Water hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium compounds and ions in the water. These ions cause two major kinds of problems. The metal ions react with soaps and calcium sensitive detergents, hindering their ability to lather properly and forming an unsightly precipitate–the familiar scum or “bathtub ring”. In addition, the presence of these ions also inhibits the cleaning effect of detergent formulations. More seriously, calcium and magnesium carbonates tend to adhere to the interior surfaces of pipes and heat exchanger surfaces. The resulting scale buildup can restrict water flow in pipes. In boilers, the deposits act as thermal insulation that impedes the flow of heat into the water. This not only reduces heating efficiency, but allows the metal to overheat which, in a pressurized system, can lead to failure. Though not hazardous, these hard water deposits can destroy the fine finish of tile and other decorative pool and fountain materials. The damage is usually caused by harsh removal procedures. A de-scaling agent is a solution to remove limescale, e.g. from water taps, kettles, toilets, water pipes and tile. De-scaling agents usually contain an acid as the active ingredient, such as acetic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, phosphoric acid, or hydrochloric acid. These solutions can be quite harsh over time. The best way to eliminate the damages from hard water is to treat the water so that the hard water deposits cannot form in the first place.
In the past, the only ways to control hard water were chemical processes. Conventional water-softening devices intended for household use depend on an ion-exchange resin in which the calcium and magnesium ions in the hard water trade places with sodium ions that are electrostatically bound to the anionic functional groups of the polymeric resin. Such procedures use a lot of sodium, which goes into the wastewater system. This sodium is not good for wastewater systems. Some municipalities restrict the use of sodium-based systems. A class of minerals known as zeolites also exhibits ion-exchange properties and were widely used in earlier water softeners.
DESCRIPTION OF PRIOR ART
Hardwater issues involve basic chemistry. Calcite is the enemy. Calcite is a hexagonal-rhombohedral crystal of CaCO.sub.3, or calcium carbonate. It is very insoluble in aqueous solutions. Calcium bicarbonate (Ca(HCO.sub.3).sub.2), also called calcium hydrogen carbonate, is a compound which exists only in aqueous solution. Calcium bicarbonate is formed when water containing carbon dioxide in solution (also known as carbonic acid) reacts with calcium carbonate.
As the solution evaporates or as its temperature increases, the following reaction occurs: Ca(HCO.sub.3).sub.2(aq).fwdarw.CO.sub.2(g)+H.sub.2O(l)+CaCO.sub.3(s). Water and carbon dioxide from the calcium bicarbonate are released to leave solid calcite behind.
This reaction is very important to the formation of hard water deposits, including the formation of such things as stalactites, stalagmites, limestone, marble and seashells. As a solution containing calcium bicarbonate, which is very water soluble, dries, or upon a rise in temperature, the excess carbon dioxide is released from the solution of the calcium bicarbonate, causing the much less soluble calcium carbonate-calcite- to be deposited.
The reaction is very temperature sensitive, with a rise in temperature easily driving carbon dioxide out of the calcium bicarbonate solution. Thus, heated pools, spas and bathing areas with elevated temperatures and perpetually damp, or continually wet and dry, areas are especially at risk for calcite deposits.
Alternative forms of water treatment used to be the exception, and now have become the rule for swimming pool maintenance. With the inception of salt-water chlorine generators and other non-chemical forms of water treatment, many pool builders and service providers have found these alternative forms as the best way to maintain pools and treat water for the destructive effects of hard water without expensive and noxious maintenance procedures. By treating the water in this manner, a conditioning effect occurs that can be felt on the skin and in the hair, and can be seen in the overall clarity of the water.
Some electromagnetic processes act to try to precipitate the calcium compounds from the water. This can be a tall order in very hard water and requires that the calcium precipitates be removed from the water and disposed. This process thus requires a lot of effort and energy.
Thus, there exists a need for a water treatment system that destroys the undesirable hardness qualities of aqueous calcium ions and compounds without creating a precipitate that must be removed.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
According to the present invention there is provided a device to convert calcium bicarbonate into the aragonite form of calcium carbonate (CaCO.sub.3) using high frequency electrical impulses. Aragonite is the same molecule as calcite, but has an orthorhombic crystal shape and is a slightly more soluble form of CaCO.sub.3 than calcite.
Aragonite is stable at temperatures associated with water systems and does not adhere to surfaces in a scaling manner like calcite does. The aragonite crystals are also a natural pH balancer. The goal of this system is to prevent the formation of calcite deposits. Thus, this system was developed to create aragonite before calcite has an opportunity to form, precipitate or deposit.
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