What is Reverse Osmosis?

April 6, 2021
What is Reverse Osmosis?

In 1977, Cape Coral, Florida, was the first U.S. city to operate a water treatment facility using reverse osmosis (RO) on a large scale as the only means of producing potable water.

Commercialized in the 1960s when membrane technology emerged as an effective water purification method, RO has been used in a wide range of applications—including desalination, water purification, wastewater treatment and concentration of whey and other food products. The technology evolved over the years as membranes made of new materials have been employed in a wide range of configurations.

Today, many countries, cities, business and households rely on RO-purified water for drinking, cooking and many other needs. The businesses that use RO water include food and beverage manufacturers; most bottled waters are actually tap water that has been purified by RO. The process is also used in the manufacture of some cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as even in the production of processed water for dialysis in hospitals.

In recent years, RO has emerged as a critical tool for mitigating the problem of water scarcity. A recent article in WaterWorld shined a light on the growing problem of water scarcity in California and the ways in which the Orange County Water District is leveraging the capabilities of RO to optimize wastewater reclamation to produce reusable, potable water.

How Does Reverse Osmosis Work?

In the RO process, water is pushed with pressures (from 100 psi to 150 psi) through a membrane with small pores, so that any molecules that are larger than the pore openings in the membrane separate from the water stream. The treated water is then collected on the opposite side of the membrane.

Treatment systems that use RO can remove salt, manganese, iron fluoride and calcium. These minerals comprise molecules that are physically larger than water molecules, so they can be easily trapped by the system’s semi-permeable membrane and removed from drinking water.

In addition to removing these minerals, today’s RO treatment technologies are the only systems capable of removing most of the contaminants (including arsenic, flouride and cyanide) that are a challenge for other systems.

The RO treatment process also provides environmental benefits, because it uses comparatively little energy and employs advanced membrane technology instead of chemicals, resins or ion exchange. And because today’s membrane technology is an effective and affordable method for removing organic contaminants, it can significantly reduce the need for chlorination.

In fact, new research into the density of water filtration membranes is finding ways to increase membrane efficiency and energy savings even more. Studies conducted by DuPont Water Solutions, a leading membrane manufacturer, is leading to even more sustainable ways to purify water. At AdEdge Water Technologies, our integrated RO treatment solution uses advanced membrane technology in conjunction with other proven treatment modules to treat drinking water, boiler feeds, remediation and industrial process water.


Photo by Vadim - stock.adobe.com

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