The Electochemical Industry in Niagara Falls
Nowhere in the world was there such an extensive congregation of varied electrochemical industries as found in the Niagara Falls area , all based on four basic concepts:
1) lowest cost and unlimited hydroelectricity
2) ample cold water
3) salt from nearby mines
4) low cost and readily available railroad transportation.
These basic factors were then amplified and derivatized into a billion dollar industrial colossus which dominated the American Industrial scene for more than 60 years.
The vast nature of this industrial development had many controversial features which at that time 1930’s thru 1960’s which were largely ignored and are beyond the scope of this treatise.
Six plants in this area depend on the decomposition of salt + water + electricity, into sodium hydroxide(caustic soda) + chlorine, + hydrogen.
Utilizing the following balanced equation:
2 NaCl + 2H20 → 2 NaOH + H2↑+ Cl2 ↑
electrochemical consumption is 3300 kilowatt hours per ton of chlorine
The development of this basic concept into a multimillion pound industry using electrochemical cells was started by the team of Sperry and Townsend as far back as 1904.
The simplistic reaction mechanism involves the electrolysis of brine (sodium chloride).
The electric current liberates free chlorine at the carbon (graphite) anode (negative pole) and at the cathode (positive pole) the sodium liberated instantly reacts with water liberating sodium hydroxide and hydrogen.
The equipment used in the industrial preparation of chlorine + caustic and by-product hydrogen utilizing an electrolytic process was the Hooker cell.
Simplified diagram of Hooker type S Cell
The graphite anodes are covered by a sodium chloride solution and are separated from the cathode by an asbestos(during that period) diaphragm which prevents the sodium hydroxide from mixing with chlorine.
Chlorine exits from a dome in the top of the cell and hydrogen leaves through an outlet on the screen cathode on the side of the cell. Because the sodium hydroxide is heavier than sodium chloride it concentrates at the bottom of the cell . It is drawn off and evaporated to low volume whereby most of the salt crystallizes out. This process is continuous more brine was added as the strength of the sodium chloride diminishes.
Several of the plants use used a different process called “ Mercury Cell Process”
Products chlorinated paraffin lubricant additive
Lindane an insecticide
2,4,5-trichlorophenol for hexachlorophene
Organic sulfides for extreme pressure lubricants and synthetic rubber
Hetron a line of fire resistant plastics
Sodium sulfide leather tanning
Anhydrous aluminum chloride- as a catalyst
Dodecyl mercaptan –cghain stopper for synthetic rubber
Arsenic Trichloride- poison gasesduring WWI
Hexachlrorbenzene for landing flares
Trichloroethylene –dry cleaning solvent
Thionyl chloride-pharma, dyestuffs, and agric.
meta and para-nitrobenzoyl chloride
N-methylpyrrole-stabilizer for trichloroethylene
laurel pyridinium chloride
UTILIZATION OF BY-PRODUCT HYDROGEN FOR HYDROGENATION
Operation of Atomic Energy Commission Plant at Model City
And operating know-how for three plants extensive research program the building and operation of a large plant at Niagrara