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System and method for generating and dispensing electrolyzed solutions

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System and method for generating and dispensing electrolyzed solutions


A system and method for generating and dispensing a diluted electrolyzed solution, where the system includes a solution generator, one or more containers, and one or more dispensing stations separate from the solution generator. The solution generator generates and dispenses a concentrated electrolyzed solution to the container(s). The dispensing station(s) draw the concentrated electrolyzed solution from the container(s), dilutes the drawn concentrated electrolyzed solution, and dispenses the diluted electrolyzed solution.
Related Terms: Concentrated Dilute

USPTO Applicaton #: #20140001054 - Class: 205464 (USPTO) -
Electrolysis: Processes, Compositions Used Therein, And Methods Of Preparing The Compositions > Electrolytic Synthesis (process, Composition, And Method Of Preparing Composition) >Preparing Inorganic Compound

Inventors: Daniel P. Longhenry, Daniel L. Joynt

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20140001054, System and method for generating and dispensing electrolyzed solutions.

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/666,375, entitled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR GENERATING AND DISPENSING ELECTROLYZED SOLUTIONS”, filed on Jun. 29, 2012.

BACKGROUND

The present disclosure relates cleaning and sanitizing systems, and in particular, to cleaning and sanitizing systems for generating and dispensing cleaning solutions (e.g., alkaline cleaning solutions) and/or sanitizing solutions (e.g., acidic sanitizing solutions) with electrolysis reactions.

Electrolysis cells are used in a variety of different applications for changing one or more characteristics of a fluid. For example, electrolysis cells have been used in cleaning/sanitizing applications, medical industries, and semiconductor manufacturing processes. Electrolysis cells have also been used in a variety of other applications and have had different configurations. For cleaning/sanitizing applications, electrolysis cells are used to create anolyte liquids and catholyte liquid. Anolyte liquids have known sanitizing properties, and catholyte liquids have known cleaning properties.

SUMMARY

An aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a system for generating and dispensing a diluted electrolyzed solution (e.g., a diluted alkaline cleaning solution and/or a diluted acidic sanitizing/disinfecting solution). The system includes a solution generator configured to electrochemically generate and dispense an electrolyzed solution, and a dispensing station separate from the solution generator, and configured to dilute the electrolyzed solution, and to dispense the diluted electrolyzed solution. The system also includes a container configured to engage with the solution generator to receive the dispensed electrolyzed solution, to transport between the solution generator and the dispensing station, and to engage with the dispensing station to drawn the electrolyzed solution from the container to the dispensing station.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a system for generating and dispensing a cleaning solution, where the system includes a solution generator, one or more containers, and one or more dispensing stations separate from the solution generator. The solution generator includes an electrolysis cell configured to generate an alkaline solution, and one or more fill dispensers configured to dispense the alkaline solution. Each of the one or more containers includes a container housing and an access port through the container housing that is configured to receive the concentrated alkaline solution from one of the fill dispensers when the access port of the container is engaged with the one fill dispenser. At least one of the dispensing stations includes a water line configured to receive water, and a fluid line configured to engage the access port of one of the containers when the one container is engaged with the fluid line to draw the alkaline solution from the one container. The at least one dispensing station also includes a mixing region at which the received water and the drawn alkaline solution are configured to mix to provide a diluted alkaline solution, and a primary dispenser configured to dispense the diluted alkaline solution as the cleaning solution.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a method for generating and dispensing a diluted electrolyzed solution. The method includes electrochemically generating an electrolyzed solution in a solution generator, dispensing a regulated amount of the generated electrolyzed solution from the solution generator to a container that is removable from the solution generator, and moving the container having the electrolyzed solution to a dispensing station. The method also includes drawing the electrolyzed solution from the container to the dispensing station, diluting the drawn electrolyzed solution at the dispensing station, and dispensing the diluted electrolyzed solution from the dispensing station.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a schematic illustration of a first conventional system for generating and dispensing an alkaline cleaning solution.

FIG. 1B is a schematic illustration of a second conventional system for generating and dispensing an alkaline cleaning solution.

FIGS. 2A-2C are perspective illustrations of a system of the present disclosure for generating, transporting, and diluting a concentrated electrolyzed solution, and for dispensing the diluted electrolyzed solution.

FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of an example solution generator of the system of the present disclosure.

FIG. 4 is a schematic illustration of an example dispensing station of the system of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present disclosure is directed to a system that includes a solution generator, one or more transportable containers, and one or more remote dispensing stations, which provide a convenient assembly for generating, transporting, and dispensing electrolyzed solutions, such as alkaline cleaning solutions and acidic sanitizing/disinfecting solutions, for example. Mobile cleaning units, such as mobile floor cleaners, conventionally use alkaline cleaning solutions and/or detergents for cleaning surfaces, such as floors. For cleaning units that rely on alkaline cleaning solutions, the cleaning units can be filled with the alkaline solutions from stationary solution generators, or the alkaline solutions can be generated onboard the cleaning units themselves.

Cleaning units having onboard generators (e.g., as disclosed in Field et al., U.S. Pat. No. 8,156,608) may generate the alkaline solutions in an on-demand manner and/or may generate and store the alkaline solutions in internal reservoirs. These cleaning units are convenient in that the alkaline solutions may be generated and transported along with the respective cleaning units. However, such cleaning units have higher power consumptions, are typically more expensive, and generally do not allow interchangeable use of the alkaline solutions between different units.

Cleaning units that are filled from stationary solution generators (e.g., as disclosed in Guastella et al., U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/410,535) are typically less expensive, and allow multiple cleaning units may be filled from a single stationary solution generator. However, stationary solution generators require the cleaning units to move back-and-forth between the stationary solution generators (for refilling) and the areas to be cleaned. For example, as shown in FIG. 1A, a user is typically required to move mobile floor cleaner 10 back-and-forth between solution generator 12 (for refilling) and the remote locations to be cleaned. As can be appreciated, for large buildings, this can increase the time required to perform the cleaning operations with mobile floor cleaner 10.

Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 1B, a user could fill transport vessel 14, and move transport container 14 back-and-forth between mobile floor cleaner 10 and solution generator 12. In this situation, the user may fill transport vessel 14 with the alkaline solution from solution generator 12, and then carry, push, or otherwise move transport container 14 to mobile floor cleaner 10. As such, mobile floor cleaner 10 itself is not required to be moved back to solution generator 12 for refilling. Rather, the user may fill mobile floor cleaner 10 from transport vessel 14. However, in order to provide a suitable volume of the alkaline solution to mobile floor cleaner 10, transport vessel 14 itself will typically be large and cumbersome, which also can also increase the time required to perform the cleaning operations with mobile floor cleaner 10.

FIGS. 2A-2C illustrate system 16 of the present disclosure, which includes solution generator 18, containers 20, and dispensing stations 22, and is configured to reduce the delays and/or physical constraints that are otherwise required to refill cleaning units, such as mobile floor cleaner 24. As shown in FIG. 2A, solution generator 18 includes housing 26 and is connected to water line 28, where water line 28 may be any suitable supply source of water or other suitable liquid. As discussed below, solution generator 18 electrically restructures water received from water line 28 and salt (e.g., sodium chloride, NaCl) to electrochemically generate a concentrated electrolyzed solution containing sodium hydroxide (NaOH), for example.

Solution generator 18 may be configured to generate any suitable concentrated electrolyzed solution, such as concentrated alkaline solutions, concentrated acidic solutions, or both. The following discussion of system 16 is made with reference to the generation and dispensing alkaline cleaning solutions. However, system 16 may alternatively generate, dilute, and dispense any suitable electrolyzed solution, such as acidic sanitizing solutions, alkaline cleaning solutions, or both, using the same techniques.

Housing 26 is a structural component of solution generator 18 and, in the shown example, includes receptacles or slots 30 for retaining containers 20. In the shown embodiment, solution generator 18 also includes secondary dispenser 31, which, as discussed below, is configured to dispense a diluted form of the concentrated alkaline solution.

Containers 20 are portable reservoirs for transporting the concentrated alkaline solution between solution generator 18 and dispensing stations 22. In particular, containers 20 are engageable with solution generator 18 (e.g., at slots 30) to receive regulated amounts of the concentrated alkaline solution, and are also removable from solution generator 18 for transporting the received concentrated alkaline solution to dispensing stations 22.

Dispensing stations 22 are diluting and dispensing units that are physical separate from solution generator 18, and may be retained at remote locations from solution generator 18, preferably at desired locations for cleaning. For example, dispensing stations 22 may be evenly distributed around a building to minimize the back-and-forth distances required for refilling a cleaning unit (e.g., mobile floor cleaner 24).

Dispensing stations 22 include housings 32 and are each connected to water lines 34, where water lines 34 may each be any suitable supply source of water or other suitable liquid. Housings 32 are structural components of dispensing stations 22 that include receptacles or slots 36 for receiving the transported containers 20. In the shown embodiment, dispensing stations 22 also include primary dispensers 38 and secondary dispensers 40, each of which are configured to dispense a diluted form of the concentrated alkaline solution, as discussed below.

Slots 30 and 36 are desirably designed for mating engagements with containers 20. For example, slots 30 and 36 may have the same designs and can include features for receiving containers 20. In this embodiment, containers 20 may include reciprocating features that allow containers 20 to be inserted into slots 30 and 36 in the proper direction and orientation.

As shown in FIG. 2B, during use, solution generator 18 generates the concentrated alkaline solution, and dispenses regulated amounts of the concentrated alkaline solution into each container 20. When a user desires to clean an area with mobile floor cleaner 24, the user may remove one of the filled containers 20 from a slot 30 of solution generator 18. The user may then carry the given container 20 to the dispensing station 22 that is closest to the area to be cleaned, for example, as illustrated by arrow 42. The user may then insert the given container 20 into the slot 36 of the dispensing station 22.

As shown in FIG. 2C, the dispensing station 22 then draws the concentrated alkaline solution from the inserted container 20 and dilutes the concentrated alkaline solution with the water from water line 34 to a desired concentration. For example, dispensing station 22 may include a dilution assembly (not shown in FIG. 2C) configured to blend predetermined ratios of the water to the concentrated alkaline solution (e.g., 9:1 ratio of water to concentrated alkaline solution). This reduces the alkalinity of the concentrated alkaline solution to a level that is suitable for use as a cleaning solution, such as a floor cleaning solution, for example.

As illustrated by arrow 44, the diluted alkaline solution may then be dispensed into mobile floor cleaner 24 (e.g., via primary dispenser 38) for subsequent use or storage. Mobile floor cleaner 24 may then use the diluted alkaline solution in a variety of industrial, commercial, and residential applications since the diluted alkaline solution leaves little or no residue and is non-toxic.

As can be appreciated, because the alkaline solution generated in solution generator 18 is at a concentration substantially greater than that typically used in cleaning units such as mobile floor cleaner 24, the bulk of the cleaning solution that is used to fill mobile floor cleaner 24 is obtained from the dilution water at dispensing stations 22. Thus, only small amounts of the concentrated alkaline solution are needed to be transported from solution generator 18 to dispensing stations 22. This allows containers 20 to be small in size, particularly compared to transport vessel 14 (shown in FIG. 1B), thereby allowing containers 20 to be readily carried between solution generator 18 and dispensing stations 22.

Furthermore, in some embodiments, each container 20 may hold enough concentrated alkaline solution for multiple refills of the cleaning units, such as mobile floor cleaner 24. Accordingly, when mobile floor cleaner 24 exhausts its supply of the diluted cleaning solution, the user may move mobile floor cleaner 24 to the closest dispensing station 22 to refill the mobile floor cleaner 24. This can substantially reduce the distance that the user is otherwise required to move mobile floor cleaner 24 if dispensing stations 22 were otherwise not available (e.g., with solution generator 10, shown in FIG. 1A). This correspondingly can reduce delays during and between the cleaning operations with mobile floor cleaner 24.

While system 16 is illustrated with a single solution generator 18, four containers 20, and four dispensing stations 22, system 16 may alternatively include different numbers of each of these components so long as system 16 includes at least one solution generator 18, at least one container 20, and at least one dispensing station 22. For example, system 16 may alternatively include a single solution generator 18, one or more containers 20, and one or more dispensing stations 22, where the number of containers 20 may be the same as the number of dispensing stations 22. This allows each dispensing station 22 to have a dedicated container 20.

Alternatively, the number of containers 20 may be greater than the number of dispensing stations 22, such as two containers 20 per dispensing station 22. This allows at least one dispensing station 22, and more desirably, each dispensing station 22 to have multiple dedicated containers 20 for interchangeable use. In a further alternative embodiment, the number of containers 20 may be less than the number of dispensing stations 22.

FIG. 3 illustrates an example embodiment of solution generator 18 in use with containers 20, where housing 26 and slots 30 are omitted for ease of discussion. As shown, solution generator 18 includes controller 46, which is one or more control circuits configured to monitor and operate the components of solution generator 18 over one or more power and communication lines (e.g., electrical, optical, and/or wireless lines, not shown). Controller 46 and the components of solution generator 18 may be powered from one or more external and/or internal power sources (not shown).

For example, one or more of the control functions performed by controller 46 can be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, etc., or a combination thereof. Such software, firmware, etc. may stored on a non-transitory computer-readable medium, such as a memory device. Any computer-readable memory device can be used, such as a disc drive, a solid state drive, CD-ROM, DVD, flash memory, RAM, ROM, a set of registers on an integrated circuit, etc. For example, the control circuit can be implemented partly or completely in a programmable logic controller and/or a processing device such as a microcontroller and/or other processor that executes instructions stored in a memory device, wherein the instructions are configured to perform the steps of the control process when executed by the processor device to convert the processing device into a special purpose computer.

Water entering solution generator 18 from water line 28 may pass through input filter 47 and water line 48 to water softener 50. The water entering input filter 47 desirably has a suitable pressure to maintain a suitable flow rate through solution generator 18. Suitable inlet pressures for the water entering solution generator 18 range from about 2 bars (about 30 pounds/square inch (psi)) to about 7 bars (about 100 psi), for example.

Water softener 50 is configured to receive the water from water line 48 and to soften the water with a core resin prior to further relaying the water through solution generator 18. Examples of suitable assemblies for water softener 50 and brine tank 52 include those disclosed in Guastella et al., U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/410,535. A portion of the water introduced to water softener 50 may also be introduced into brine tank 52 to form a brine solution, which is a saturated solution of sodium chloride in water, for example. The amount of water introduced from water softener 50 into brine tank 52 may be regulated by controller 46 with a flow control or flow restriction mechanism (not shown) to prevent the water from overflowing brine tank 52.

From water softener 50, the softened water flows through water line 54 to mixing chamber 56. As further shown, a portion of the softened water may also be directed through dilution line 58 to secondary dispenser 31, as discussed below. The brine from brine tank 52 is also directed to mixing chamber 56 through brine line 60 with the use of pump 62. At mixing chamber 56, the softened water and the brine solution are mixed and directed through solution line 64.

Solution generator 18 also includes flow valve 66 and conductivity sensors 68 and 70, where flow valve 66 is located along water line 54, and conductivity sensors 68 and 70 are located respectively along water line 54 and solution line 64. Conductivity sensors 68 and 70 monitor the conductivity levels of the water flowing through water line 54 and the mixed solution flowing through solution line 64, allowing controller 46 to adjust the flow of the softened water through water line 54 (via flow valve 66) and/or the flow of the brine solution through brine line 60 (via pump 62). This allows controller 46 to maintain a predetermined salt concentration in the mixed solution flowing through solution line 64. While not shown, solution generator 18 may also include a variety of additional flow control mechanisms, such as additional flow valves, pressure regulators, temperature sensors, pressure sensors, pH sensors, conductivity sensors, and the like, each of which may be monitored and/or operated by controller 46.

The mixed solution flowing through solution line 64 is then split into separate streams (at lines 72 and 74) prior to (or after) entering electrolysis cell 76. In particular, a first portion of the mixed solution may flow through line 72 (and through flow switch 78), and is directed into cathode chamber 80 of electrolysis cell 76. Correspondingly, a second portion of the mixed solution may flow through line 74, and is directed into anode chamber 82 of electrolysis cell 76.

In the shown embodiment, electrolysis cell 76 also includes barrier 84, cathode electrode 86, and anode electrode 88, where barrier 84 includes a membrane (e.g., an ion exchange membrane) or other diaphragm that separates cathode chamber 76 and anode chamber 82. Cathode electrode 86 includes one or more electrodes located in cathode chamber 76 and is connected to the power source (not shown), such as through controller 46. Anode electrode 88 includes one or more electrodes located in anode chamber 82 and may also be connected to the power source, such as through controller 46.

During operation, controller 46 may apply a voltage to cathode electrode 86 and anode electrode 88, inducing an electrical current across electrolysis cell 76 to generate a catholyte stream containing the concentrated alkaline solution (e.g., alkaline water with sodium hydroxide (i.e., caustic soda)) from the mixed solution flowing through cathode chamber 80. This reaction also generates an anolyte stream containing chlorine acidic water from the mixed solution flowing through anode chamber 82. The resulting concentrated alkaline solution exits cathode chamber 80 through output line 90 to collection tank 92, and the acidic anolyte stream exits anode chamber 82 through output line 94.

Controller 46 also desirably monitors the electrical current induced across electrolysis cell 76. In particular, controller 46 may, for example, measure fluctuations in the electrical current induced across electrolysis cell 76 with a current sensor (not shown). In this embodiment, controller 46 may adjust the flow rate of the softened water (via flow valve 66) and/or the brine solution (via pump 62) into mixing chamber 56 based on the measured electrical currents. Additionally, controller 46 may adjust the voltage applied to electrolysis cell 76. These adjustments assist in ensuring that the mixed solution flowing to electrolysis cell 76 has a consistent and controlled salt concentration, allowing electrolysis cell 76 to generate a high-quality, concentrated alkaline solution in cathode chamber 80 with controlled compositional properties.

Suitable compositional properties for the concentrated alkaline solution include a pH values greater than about 12. For example, in one embodiment, the concentrated alkaline solution is generated at a concentration such that when diluted in a dispensing station 22 (e.g., 9:1 ratio of water to concentrated alkaline solution), the resulting diluted alkaline solution has a pH greater than about 10 (e.g., a pH ranging from greater than about 10 to less than about 12).

In the shown embodiment, solution generator 18 is configured to dispense the concentrated alkaline solution to containers 20, as discussed above. In this embodiment, the acidic anolyte stream from output line 94 may be retained in a storage vessel (not shown) for subsequent use, or may be treated with carbon filter 96 and discarded in an environmentally-friendly manner through line 98.

As discussed above, in alternative embodiments, solution generator 18 may be configured to generate concentrated acidic solutions. For example, in these embodiments, output lines 90 and 94 of solution generator 18 may be switched such that the concentrated acidic solution exists anode chamber 82 through output line 90 to collection tank 92, and the alkaline catholyte stream exits cathode chamber 80 through output line 94.

In a further alternative embodiment, solution generator 18 may be configured to interchangeably use the concentrated alkaline solution from output line 90 and the acidic anolyte stream from output line 94. In this embodiment, output line 94 may also be directed to collection tank 92, and output lines 90 and 94 may include flow valves (not shown) that allow controller 46 to selectively control which solution is directed to collection tank 92.

Collection tank 92 is an intermediate storage reservoir for the concentrated alkaline solution, and includes level switch 100. When the concentrated alkaline solution reaches a predetermined fill level within collection tank 92, level switch 100 informs controller 46 to stop further filling, such as by closing flow switch 58. This prevents the concentrated alkaline solution from overflowing collection tank 92.

As discussed above, in the shown embodiment, solution generator 18 also includes secondary dispenser 31, which is configured to dispense a diluted form of the concentrated alkaline solution. Accordingly, when secondary dispenser 31 is actuated by a user, the softened water from dilution line 58 and a portion of the concentrated alkaline solution from collection tank 92 (through line 102) are mixed and dispensed as a diluted alkaline solution.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20140001054 A1
Publish Date
01/02/2014
Document #
13929144
File Date
06/27/2013
USPTO Class
205464
Other USPTO Classes
204232
International Class
25B15/00
Drawings
7


Concentrated
Dilute


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