Thursday, June 30, 2022

MSU student designs product to prevent limescale

March 4, 2022
<p>The Posi-Snap deactivates calcium ions in water which allows them to travel seamlessly out of pipes and faucets. (Courtesy: Matthew Othmer)</p>

The Posi-Snap deactivates calcium ions in water which allows them to travel seamlessly out of pipes and faucets. (Courtesy: Matthew Othmer)

Michigan State University chemistry sophomore Matthew Othmer has created a product to eliminate limescale in homes without the use of a water softener.

Othmer’s product, the Posi-Snap, is described as an “eco-friendly, cost-saving solution to limescale.” It works by producing a flux field that alters the energy level of calcium ions, preventing the calcium carbonate from adhering to piping, water heaters and faucets and allowing it to pass out of water seamlessly. 

He created the product by scaling down commercial water treatment systems. Within 30-60 days, the Posi-Snap can make a significant difference in limescale deposits. 

“I've grown up in the water treatment area, and I kind of got first-hand knowledge of how it requires specific chemical balances and everything to treat a system and to keep the equipment lasting as long as it possibly can,” Othmer said. “But a couple years ago, I started working there and I started learning more of the ins-and-outs of stuff. And I realized that some of the stuff that we use for commercial water treatment could get scaled down for residential.”

Limescale is the hard, chalky and typically yellow or white residue left behind by hard water. It can be found in and around water spots and can be difficult to remove. 

Water hardness is determined by the milligrams of calcium percarbonate per liter. Since limescale is formed by calcium and carbonate ions in water bonding to form a solid, the harder water is, the more limescale deposits will form, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Although limescale isn’t necessarily toxic, it can cause unsightly stains, wreak havoc on appliances and plumbing, and dry out skin and hair, according to American Home Water & Air.

Journalism junior Brooke Miller said that the hard water in East Lansing has negatively impacted her skin. 

“I live just off campus and the water is pretty bad,” Miller said in a Facebook message. “I've got eczema, mostly on my hands and arms, and I've noticed that when I go home it gets better, but when I get back to East Lansing it always gets worse.” 

Additionally, Miller has noticed issues with her hair as well.

“As far as my hair goes, it's curly and I've got color in it and my hair always feels so much worse out here than at home,” Miller said in a Facebook message. “It’s a lot harder to manage and a lot of the time I have to put it up as opposed to just leaving it natural. I've also noticed that the color seems to fade out of my hair quicker.”

According to Othmer, the traditional way to prevent limescale and to lessen the effects of hard water is to soften water. Water softener systems soften water by replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium, but the 40-pound bags of salt required for softeners and increased sodium level can negatively impact both the environment and human health.

Electronic descaling systems have existed before the Posi-Snap, but had significant drawbacks. Earlier systems required closely matching the flow of water to the strength and direction system and were quite difficult to install.  The Posi-Snap creates solutions for both of these problems by creating a variable flux field, rather than a stagnant magnetic one, and is also simple to install as it only needs to be clamped onto a pipe and plugged in, according to its website.

“It's not obvious when you look at it, but it straps on to the end of a pipe very easily. So it's just a clamp that you clamp and unclamp onto the pipe and plug it in and it runs,” Othermer said. “So, it's also very easy to install and it doesn't require any plumbing knowledge.”

It retails at $449 dollars and can be purchased on the website Othmer designed. 

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