Phil Castle, The Business Times
A large image that covers most of one wall at Anode Systems in Grand Junction offers a look at zinc oxide crystals up close and personal.
From that microscopic perspective, the crystals look a bit like ninja throwing stars with sharp edges protruding in every direction.
“I like to say they slice and dice,” said Hans Schmoldt, president of the company.
It’s an important characteristic, Schmoldt said, because zinc oxide crystals poke holes in the protective membranes of bacteria, fungus and other microorganisms. That makes the substance an effective antibiotic for treating everything from athlete’s foot to diaper rash to the water circulating inside an evaporative cooler.
Anode Systems manufactures anodes that reduce not only corrosion in coolers, but also the microorganisms that create bad odors and potential health risks.
While there’s no evidence the anodes also reduce the threat of coronavirus, Schmoldt said the anodes offer benefits at a time when people are more likely indoors and cognizant of the quality of the air they breathe.
To that end, Schmoldt has ramped up efforts to distribute and sell what’s branded as Sunflower anodes. That includes increased staffing with graduates from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction trained in marketing, engineering and microbiology.
Schmoldt founded Anode Systems in 1984 to supply a range of anodes and other products to control corrosion in pipelines and storage tanks. Anodes provide what’s called cathodic protection. Anodes attach with a wire to the metal object that’s to be protected. That turns the object into a cathode and creates a weak electric connection. As long as current flows from the anode to the cathode, the anode corrodes instead of the metal it protects.
Schmoldt developed the Sunflower anode to control corrosion in metal evaporative coolers, but discovered the anode also releases zinc oxide into the water that circulates in coolers. Zinc oxide controls the bad smells of so-called swamp coolers by controlling the microorganisms that can cause the odors. Those microorganisms also can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches and other health problems.
The original version of the Sunflower anode is made with zinc and comes with a wire that attaches with a screw to the metal of an evaporative cooler. The second version of the anode is made with zinc and a small copper plate. The second version doesn’t require grounding, so it works in plastic and fiberglass coolers.
The combination of zinc and copper in the second version also creates a stronger electric current that makes the anode work more effectively, Schmoldt said.
While the Sunflower anodes cost more than products sold by competitors, Schmoldt said they work better. “You get what you pay for.”
Cody Maynard, marketing manager at Anode Systems, said Sunflower anodes are available at the Peach True Value hardware store in Grand Junction. He said he’s working on arranging for additional retail outlets to sell the anodes.
Sunflower anodes also are available for purchase online from an updated website, Maynard said, and have sold to customers living in dry and hot climates not only in the western United States, but also around the world.
Additional efforts are under way, he said, to market Sunflower anodes through such social media platforms as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Heidi Kloser, one of the microbiological specialists who’ve joined Anode Systems, said Sunflower anodes work well in cleaning the air from evaporative coolers and reducing the risks for people susceptible to respiratory problems. That’s important in the midst of a pandemic that’s forced people to spend more times indoors.
Cambria Camp, another microbiological specialist, agreed, but also welcomed comparison shopping. “We encourage people to do their own research.”
When they discover what those zinc oxide crystals can do, Camp said they’ll realize the advantages of Sunflower anodes.