Today was science field trip to NCP (National Chlorine Plant) day. We donned our jeans and school shoes (fashion deluxe, but that's regulation apparal), lab coats, hard hats and safety goggles. With emergency respirators and visitor ID cards tucked safely into our pockets we embarked on our tour of the plant.
The purification of brine [NaCl(aq)] is much more complicated than you'd think. We saw brine reactors, settling tanks, supersaturators and more as we scribbled down notes for our portfolio project. Having climbed what must be over 100 stairs to see brine purified to less than 10ppm we trekked through the plant to see the ion exchange towers. Finally we got to see the electrolysis cells themselves.
Quick check before we go in: any pacemakers? The electromagnetism could cause malfunctioning. Once the class had figured out what a pacemaker is, they assured our guide that we could move on and we observed the cells. Excitement! Well, actually there wasn't that much to see, but it was pretty interesting. They feed a massive amount of electricity into that plant. As well as the mountains (10m high?) of salt that we saw. Each day they use hindreds of times what a household uses in a month. Tens of thousands of kilowatt hours - not that they have to worry about load-shedding, being the only provider of chlorine for water sanitation in SA.
All in all, pretty cool. I've never seen that much salt before. I've never seen that much industrial equipment before either. It was quite an experience. Awe-some! I had fun!