How does the Pelican NaturSoft® System soften my water?

Optical microscope view of NaturSoft® resin showing crystal formation at a 1000X magnification

What is hardness and how does the Natursoft® system address it?

In order to understand the operating principle behind NaturSoft®'s catalytic scale reduction technology (Template Induced Crystallization) in greater detail it is important to examine the relationship between minerals dissolved in an aqueous solution and the occurrence of crystalline solids.

The operating principle of NaturSoft®

  1. In its practical application, the NaturSoft® is operated in a fluidized bed. Due to the media beads "bumping into each other" and the shearing forces of the passing water by the media granules, the micro crystals are released into the water stream. The crystals being devoid of a charge (as the ionic charges of its building blocks calcium and carbonate neutralize each other) now are suspended in the water traveling in the flow of the water unable to attach themselves to the plumbing surfaces.
  2. Without a doubt the most important aspect of this technology is not what occurs in the NaturSoft® tank alone, but rather the fact that the micro crystals that are released into the water stream act as seed crystals fulfilling the exact same function in the water stream as the NaturSoft® media does within the treatment vessel. As the scale potential of the water in the plumbing system increases "usually through pressure differentials or increases in the water temperature (heating)" the seed crystals that are present throughout the body of water readily integrate precipitating calcium into their own structure (i.e. the crystals grow) and spawn the creation of further seed crystals in their immediate vicinity. As a result, excess minerals are once again removed to form harmless crystals and the scale potential of the water is returned to a neutral or saturated state.

Calcium Carbonate
Calcium carbonate is arguably the most troublesome of the "Hardness Minerals", As a solid, it occurs in two possible forms in a plumbing system:

  1. As scale or limestone deposits: a firmly attached crystal structure commonly called scale. It is a rough, hard deposit that occludes piping systems over time, reduces water pressure, tends to harbor microorganisms and interferes with heat transfer in water heaters and the like.
  2. As a colloid or sediment: an unattached solid, i.e. a suspended crystal that lacking an electric charge is unable to attach itself to plumbing surfaces or existing scale and that gets carried along with the flowing water.

Why does water contain calcium?
Contrary to popular belief calcium carbonate is very poorly soluble, indeed virtually non-soluble in water (H2O). It is the carbonic acid occurring in water as the result of carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere and / or from organic activity in the aquifers that dissolves calcium minerals. This weak acid leaches minerals from the earth's crust creating dissolved hardness.

Calcium and Carbonic acid balance
The minerals being leached from the earth's crust in effect neutralize the acid. The result is water containing dissolved minerals that are in some relationship to the water's original carbonic acid content. A balanced state or state of equilibrium would be a state of saturation with an amount of calcium equal to what would be required to neutralize the carbonic acid. A super saturated condition would occur when the amount of calcium actually exceeds the carbonic acid present; an under-saturated condition would exist when the opposite is the case.

Why does scale form?
Scale does not form randomly. For example, scale is much more likely to get its start in metal pipes versus plastics, on rough versus smooth surfaces, on conductive versus non-conductive surfaces, in hot water versus cold. Many studies have been conducted on the vulnerability of different plumbing materials to experience scale formation. The plumbing materials ranged from various manmade "plastic" materials, to basic metals like copper & steel and stainless steel, to the exotic like titanium and gold & platinum plated base metals.
These studies found that each plumbing surface material had a different rate at which scale nucleation would occur (i.e. the scale getting started). However, once nucleation had occurred and scale had attached itself to the plumbing surface, the rate at which the scale would actually grow was the same regardless of the type of plumbing material. The causal factor for this observation is scale's strong preference for aggregating on existing scale rather than any other surfaces.

The Science behind T.I.C.: Pelican NaturSoft®'s Template Induced Crystallization

Water preferably should be balanced (or in a "saturated") state, which refers to a balanced relationship in the amount of carbonate hardness dissolved in water with the constituent responsible for keeping it in solution, i.e. carbonic acid. Water unfortunately regularly occurs in a state of imbalance, which would be either a state of under saturation or, more commonly, in a state of super saturation. Under-saturation implies a lower mineral content than required to offset the carbonic acid present in the water which results in water whose properties include the propensity to corrode plumbing systems. Conversely, super saturation implies an excess of minerals which results in water which has an elevated propensity to form scale.

For the most part, our tap water is at least slightly super-saturated with calcium. Depending on the plumbing material used (i.e. copper, PVC etc.) this leads to the formation of scale deposits sooner or later - even in the cold water systems. However, since heating water increases the scale potential of water, the formation of scale is a particular problem in water heaters, hot water lines and hot water using appliances.

So, how does NaturSoft® help? NaturSoft® when applied in the treatment of water reduces the elevated scale potential and moves the water chemistry from a state of imbalance towards balance. It does so by promoting the creation of microscopic mineral crystals. The creation of such solid crystals removes the excess minerals from solution in the water and thus helps to restore water balance. After they are created in the conditioning system, these microscopic crystals flow in suspension throughout the plumbing system ready to integrate additional minerals if the scale potential of the water is increased due to heating or other reasons. That said, solid mineral crystals do not form spontaneously other than in extreme super saturation states. The specially designed surface on the NaturSoft® media includes templates that induce or assist the formation of these crystals at far lower saturation levels than would otherwise be required.

Put in another way, the Pelican NaturSoft® Template Induced Crystallization Media is designed to lower the threshold required to form those crystals. Essentially, the presence of T.I.C. media in your water allows the water to begin forming those calcium carbonate crystals without having the extreme saturation that is normally required. The crystals form on the surface of our media where the atoms arrange themselves in accordance with the template provided. The template chosen is deliberately selected to form a crystal structure that is able to absorb minerals readily, yet is stable enough not to attach itself to plumbing surfaces.

Several hundred calcium carbonate crystal structures are known to occur in nature. Even though they all have the same chemical composition, they are distinguished by slightly different arrangements of the atoms in their structure. The two most commonly known structures are Calcite and Aragonite.

The template on the Pelican NaturSoft® media is created to induce the calcium to readily attach itself to the matrix. The particular template is chosen to create crystals of a structure that favors ready growth in rising saturation states.

The crystals that are created by the media then are carried downstream in the water where serve as templates (i.e. seed crystals) themselves promoting the creation of further seed crystals if conditions require. As such, the seed crystals perform the same function as the media itself. This effect is most beneficial when you get to your water heater. When heated the waters scale potential increases and the seed crystals absorb the additional calcium that would otherwise form scale.

By keeping the minerals in the water we keep the water balanced and as close to nature's soft water as nature intended.