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MMD > Archives > July 2002 > 2002.07.25 > 08Prev  Next

The Smell of Ozone
By John A. Tuttle

Hi all,  Can anyone explain to me what ozone smells like?  I believe
I know what it smells like, but I can't put it into precise words.
So how can I explain the smell to someone else?

When I was a radar operator, I worked on a 2.5 million watt radar
system everyday.  During the six years that I had that job, I worked
on perhaps 15-20 different systems, which were all on board military
aircraft.  Systems of that magnitude are operated inside a vacuum to
eliminate arcing, and being made of metal, it was impossible to 'see'
inside the system.  Occasionally a vacuum pump would start to fail or
the system would develop a vacuum leak and the first sign, besides
reduced performance, was an odd odor which I was told was ozone.
In a very real sense, that smell became the red flag which indicated
to me that there was an arcing problem somewhere in the system.

That was 36 years ago, but the distinctive odor is one that's hard to
forget.  I now refer to the odor as a 'metallic smell' or 'burnt air
smell', but those aren't very descriptive terms to someone who has
never smelled ozone.  So, is there some other smell that most people
recognize that is like the smell of ozone?  Or are there other words
that can be used to describe the smell?  Also, the smell has a kind of
taste that is likewise hard to describe.

By the way, my dictionary defines ozone as: "an unstable, pale-blue
gas, O3, with a penetrating odor.  It is an allotropic form of oxygen,
formed usually by a silent electrical discharge in air, and is used as
an oxidizing, deodorizing, and bleaching agent and in the purification
of water."


John A. Tuttle

(Message sent Thu 25 Jul 2002, 15:26:15 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ozone, Smell

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