How ionogen, a biotech pioneer, brought the world’s oldest disinfectant to market on a massive scale to fight airborne viruses

Develop a series of scalable, reliable, and cost-effective onsite HOCl generators.

If hypochlorous acid is the perfect solution to a wide variety of sanitation issues, why isn’t it readily available everywhere? Shanahan says the answer is simple: It is nearly impossible to make solutions of it shelf-stable and in high volumes. “As electrolyzed water, hypochlorous acid is created by running an electrical current through salt water,” he explains. “The longer the current runs through the salt water, the stronger the solution becomes. Unfortunately, this brilliantly simple compound begins to break down, back into salt water, soon after production. That’s why we saw an opportunity to design, engineer, and build highly scalable, reliable, and cost-effective on-site generators. This way, the solutions can be created and immediately used when and where they are needed.” As ionogen moved from product concept to development, its engineers had six criteria to guide their work: 1. Scalability 2. Safety and quality 3. Data input and collection 4. Remote access 5. Ease of use

Customer: ionogen, based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

With a reliable method of scalable production and solid quality control, supported by Siemens technology, ionogen® is making hypochlorous acid, a non-toxic yet extremely powerful antimicrobial cleanser, an accessible tool to keep people safe from such airborne viruses as colds, flu, chicken pox, and even the deadly SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.


Scalable options for on-site, ionogen disinfectant generation, powered by Siemens technology, expertise, and global service and support.

Today the company offers three sizes of ionogen HOCl generators that operate on 110/220-volt electric current (or, in Europe, 230-volt electric current) using water and an ionogen-provided chloride salt compound. Shanahan credits the Siemens application engineering team with helping the company achieve all its design goals for these ionogen HOCl-based disinfectant generating systems. “Our lead Siemens consulting engineer worked with our team to fully understand their design and engineering requirements, then offered an ideal combination of an advanced SIMATIC PLC, HMI, and other components, such as power supplies, to make our systems the best they could possibly be.”
From the start, even though we’re a young company, Siemens provided us with engineering support that would rival what its largest customers get.
John Shanahan ionogen CEO and co-founder

Cut a year off time to market, poised for global success with scalable, flexible solutions, standardized controls, and proven deployments.

Today the company is poised to start selling its ionogen on-site generators in high volumes, initially targeting schools and medical facilities. Eventually, too, the company plans to make its disinfectant-generating technology available free of charge to developing countries, where better sanitation is needed. “Without our partnership with Siemens to develop the controls and automation for our units, we would’ve needed another year before we could have released our first one,” says Shanahan. “That’s vastly accelerated both our time to market and, ultimately, our time to being cash-flow positive, which has also been enormously reassuring to our angel investors.”

Having feedback on the performance of each unit is a critical benefit of the Siemens controls, according to Shanahan. The proprietary reactors at the heart of ionogen’s HOCl generators are the most sensitive and expensive part of the system, which is why it is so valuable that the PLC can monitor and track the behavior of the reactors throughout their service lives. “The Siemens controllers enable us to assure our customers that they’ll get the longest life possible from them – and we can tell when they’re wearing out”.


Intuitive and easy to use.

The company’s engineers used the TIA Portal to program each unit’s Siemens HMI to be intuitive and easy to use, which minimizes training. “ While the intricacies of programming logic and of interfacing with a machine may be interesting for an engineer, it’s not necessarily so for an end user like the custodian at a school, hospital, or local mall or a factory supervisor,” says Shanahan. “And since these are the people who ultimately use our generators, large or small, we made the controls and displays easy to understand and use — like an app on a smartphone. The more they look and function like something users already know, the more likely they will have an enjoyable experience, which is exactly what we want.”