How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 259

Why does a high voltage transformer make ozone?
High voltages involve large accumulations of like electric charges. These charges repel one another ferociously and can leap off into the air near sharp points and edges. They produce sparks and corona discharges. While these discharges are useful in some devices (e.g. copiers and air cleaners), they tend to transfer energy to air molecules and can break up those air molecules. When normal oxygen molecules (which each contain 2 oxygen atoms) break up, the resulting oxygen atoms can stick to other oxygen molecules to form ozone molecules (which each contain 3 oxygen atoms). That is why you can often smell ozone near electrical discharges, high voltage power lines, and after thunderstorms.

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