Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSChE)


Chemical Engineering


William J. DeSisto

Second Committee Member

Douglas W. Bousfield

Third Committee Member

Thomas Schwartz


Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is a weak acid, but strong oxidizing agent produced naturally in the human body to fight viruses and bacteria. Hypochlorous acid can be produced by electrolysis of sodium chloride and water enabling local production of disinfectant, where it is needed. Hypochlorous acid has many applications including in wound care, skin care, and disinfection of health and dental clinics. In this work, two hypochlorous acid applications were explored that could utilize local production by electrolysis. These applications were wastewater treatment and sanitization of dental operating rooms.

An electrochemical reactor and process were designed, constructed, and tested for hypochlorous acid production using wastewater effluent and sodium chloride as feed. Laboratory tests revealed important performance parameters including energy use rates and sodium chloride use rates per unit of free chlorine produced. A reactor model was developed to calculate the fractional yield of chlorine produced as a function of applied voltage to the reactor. In collaboration with Maine Manufacturing Partners, a trial of the equipment at the Biddeford Pool wastewater treatment plant was initiated.

Dental offices generate significant amounts of airborne particles during routine cleanings and surgeries (particularly periodontal work on gums and bone beneath the gums). Some office disinfection practices include fogging rooms with hypochlorous acid after procedures to neutralize airborne viruses and bacteria. Results will be shown for a finite element model of fog dispersion in a room containing airborne contaminants.