Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology that uses a partially permeable membrane to remove ions, molecules and larger particles from drinking water. In reverse osmosis, an applied pressure is used to overcome osmotic pressure, a colligative property, that is driven by chemical potential differences of the solvent, a thermodynamic parameter. Reverse osmosis can remove many types of dissolved and suspended chemical species as well as biological ones (principally bacteria) from water, and is used in both industrial processes and the production of potable water. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be "selective", this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as solvent molecules, i.e., water, H2O) to pass freely.
In the normal osmosis process, the solvent naturally moves from an area of low solute concentration (high water potential), through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration (low water potential). The driving force for the movement of the solvent is the reduction in the free energy of the system when the difference in solvent concentration on either side of a membrane is reduced, generating osmotic pressure due to the solvent moving into the more concentrated solution. Applying an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of pure solvent, thus, is reverse osmosis. The process is similar to other membrane technology applications.
Reverse osmosis differs from filtration in that the mechanism of fluid flow is by osmosis across a membrane. The predominant removal mechanism in membrane filtration is straining, or size exclusion, where the pores are 0.01 micrometers or larger, so the process can theoretically achieve perfect efficiency regardless of parameters such as the solution's pressure and concentration. Reverse osmosis instead involves solvent diffusion across a membrane that is either nonporous or uses nanofiltration with pores 0.001 micrometers in size. The predominant removal mechanism is from differences in solubility or diffusivity, and the process is dependent on pressure, solute concentration, and other conditions. Reverse osmosis is most commonly known for its use in drinking water purification from seawater, removing the salt and other effluent materials from the water molecules.
A process of osmosis through semipermeable membranes was first observed in 1748 by Jean-Antoine Nollet. For the following 200 years, osmosis was only a phenomenon observed in the laboratory. In 1950, the University of California at Los Angeles first investigated desalination of seawater using semipermeable membranes. Researchers from both University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Florida successfully produced fresh water from seawater in the mid-1950s, but the flux was too low to be commercially viable until the discovery at University of California at Los Angeles by Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, of techniques for making asymmetric membranes characterized by an effectively thin "skin" layer supported atop a highly porous and much thicker substrate region of the membrane. John Cadotte, of FilmTec Corporation, discovered that membranes with particularly high flux and low salt passage could be made by interfacial polymerization of m-phenylene diamine and trimesoyl chloride. Cadotte's patent on this process was the subject of litigation and has since expired. Almost all commercial reverse-osmosis membrane is now made by this method. By the end of 2001, about 15,200 desalination plants were in operation or in the planning stages, worldwide.
In 1977 Cape Coral, Florida became the first municipality in the United States to use the RO process on a large scale with an initial operating capacity of 11.35 million liters (3 million US gal) per day. By 1985, due to the rapid growth in population of Cape Coral, the city had the largest low-pressure reverse-osmosis plant in the world, capable of producing 56.8 million liters (15 million US gal) per day (MGD).
Formally, reverse osmosis is the process of forcing a solvent from a region of high solute concentration through a semipermeable membrane to a region of low-solute concentration by applying a pressure in excess of the osmotic pressure. The largest and most important application of reverse osmosis is the separation of pure water from seawater and brackish waters; seawater or brackish water is pressurized against one surface of the membrane, causing transport of salt-depleted water across the membrane and emergence of potable drinking water from the low-pressure side.
The membranes used for reverse osmosis have a dense layer in the polymer matrix—either the skin of an asymmetric membrane or an interfacially polymerized layer within a thin-film-composite membrane—where the separation occurs. In most cases, the membrane is designed to allow only water to pass through this dense layer while preventing the passage of solutes (such as salt ions). This process requires that a high pressure be exerted on the high-concentration side of the membrane, usually 2–17 bar (30–250 psi) for fresh and brackish water, and 40–82 bar (600–1200 psi) for seawater, which has around 27 bar (390 psi) natural osmotic pressure that must be overcome. This process is best known for its use in desalination (removing the salt and other minerals from sea water to produce fresh water), but since the early 1970s, it has also been used to purify fresh water for medical, industrial and domestic applications.
Such systems typically include a number of steps:
The latest developments in the sphere include nano materials and membranes.
In some systems, the carbon prefilter is omitted, and a cellulose triacetate membrane is used. CTA (cellulose triacetate) is a paper by-product membrane bonded to a synthetic layer and is made to allow contact with chlorine in the water. These require a small amount of chlorine in the water source to prevent bacteria from forming on it. The typical rejection rate for CTA membranes is 85–95%.
The cellulose triacetate membrane is prone to rotting unless protected by chlorinated water, while the thin film composite membrane is prone to breaking down under the influence of chlorine. A thin film composite (TFC) membrane is made of synthetic material, and requires chlorine to be removed before the water enters the membrane. To protect the TFC membrane elements from chlorine damage, carbon filters are used as pre-treatment in all residential reverse osmosis systems. TFC membranes have a higher rejection rate of 95–98% and a longer life than CTA membranes.
Portable reverse osmosis water processors are sold for personal water purification in various locations. To work effectively, the water feeding to these units should be under some pressure (280 kPa (40 psi) or greater is the norm). Portable reverse osmosis water processors can be used by people who live in rural areas without clean water, far away from the city's water pipes. Rural people filter river or ocean water themselves, as the device is easy to use (saline water may need special membranes). Some travelers on long boating, fishing, or island camping trips, or in countries where the local water supply is polluted or substandard, use reverse osmosis water processors coupled with one or more ultraviolet sterilizers.
In the production of bottled mineral water, the water passes through a reverse osmosis water processor to remove pollutants and microorganisms. In European countries, though, such processing of natural mineral water (as defined by a European directive) is not allowed under European law. In practice, a fraction of the living bacteria can and do pass through reverse osmosis membranes through minor imperfections, or bypass the membrane entirely through tiny leaks in surrounding seals. Thus, complete reverse osmosis systems may include additional water treatment stages that use ultraviolet light or ozone to prevent microbiological contamination.
Membrane pore sizes can vary from 0.1 to 5,000 nm depending on filter type. Particle filtration removes particles of 1 µm or larger. Microfiltration removes particles of 50 nm or larger. Ultrafiltration removes particles of roughly 3 nm or larger. Nanofiltration removes particles of 1 nm or larger. Reverse osmosis is in the final category of membrane filtration, hyperfiltration, and removes particles larger than 0.1 nm.
A solar-powered desalination unit produces potable water from saline water by using a photovoltaic system that converts solar power into the required energy for reverse osmosis. Due to the extensive availability of sunlight across different geographies, solar-powered reverse osmosis lends itself well to drinking water purification in remote settings lacking an electricity grid. Moreover, Solar energy overcomes the usually high-energy operating costs as well as greenhouse emissions of conventional reverse osmosis systems, making it a sustainable freshwater solution compatible to developing contexts. For example, a solar-powered desalination unit designed for remote communities has been successfully tested in the Northern Territory of Australia.
While the intermittent nature of sunlight and its variable intensity throughout the day makes PV efficiency prediction difficult and desalination during night time challenging, several solutions exist. For example, batteries, which provide the energy required for desalination in non-sunlight hours can be used to store solar energy in daytime. Apart from the use of conventional batteries, alternative methods for solar energy storage exist. For example, thermal energy storage systems solve this storage problem and ensure constant performance even during non-sunlight hours and cloudy days, improving overall efficiency.
A reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU) is a portable, self-contained water treatment plant. Designed for military use, it can provide potable water from nearly any water source. There are many models in use by the United States armed forces and the Canadian Forces. Some models are containerized, some are trailers, and some are vehicles unto themselves.
Each branch of the United States armed forces has their own series of reverse osmosis water purification unit models, but they are all similar. The water is pumped from its raw source into the reverse osmosis water purification unit module, where it is treated with a polymer to initiate coagulation. Next, it is run through a multi-media filter where it undergoes primary treatment by removing turbidity. It is then pumped through a cartridge filter which is usually spiral-wound cotton. This process clarifies the water of any particles larger than 5 µm and eliminates almost all turbidity.
The clarified water is then fed through a high-pressure piston pump into a series of vessels where it is subject to reverse osmosis. The product water is free of 90.00–99.98% of the raw water's total dissolved solids and by military standards, should have no more than 1000–1500 parts per million by measure of electrical conductivity. It is then disinfected with chlorine and stored for later use.
Within the United States Marine Corps, the reverse osmosis water purification unit has been replaced by both the Lightweight Water Purification System and Tactical Water Purification Systems. The Lightweight Water Purification Systems can be transported by Humvee and filter 470 litres (120 US gal) per hour. The Tactical Water Purification Systems can be carried on a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement truck, and can filter 4,500 to 5,700 litres (1,200 to 1,500 US gal) per hour.
Rain water collected from storm drains is purified with reverse osmosis water processors and used for landscape irrigation and industrial cooling in Los Angeles and other cities, as a solution to the problem of water shortages.
In industry, reverse osmosis removes minerals from boiler water at power plants. The water is distilled multiple times. It must be as pure as possible so it does not leave deposits on the machinery or cause corrosion. The deposits inside or outside the boiler tubes may result in under-performance of the boiler, reducing its efficiency and resulting in poor steam production, hence poor power production at the turbine.
It is also used to clean effluent and brackish groundwater. The effluent in larger volumes (more than 500 m3/day) should be treated in an effluent treatment plant first, and then the clear effluent is subjected to reverse osmosis system. Treatment cost is reduced significantly and membrane life of the reverse osmosis system is increased.
Reverse osmosis process for water purification does not require thermal energy. Flow-through reverse osmosis systems can be regulated by high-pressure pumps. The recovery of purified water depends upon various factors, including membrane sizes, membrane pore size, temperature, operating pressure, and membrane surface area.
In 2002, Singapore announced that a process named NEWater would be a significant part of its future water plans. It involves using reverse osmosis to treat domestic wastewater before discharging the NEWater back into the reservoirs.
In addition to desalination, reverse osmosis is a more economical operation for concentrating food liquids (such as fruit juices) than conventional heat-treatment processes. Research has been done on concentration of orange juice and tomato juice. Its advantages include a lower operating cost and the ability to avoid heat-treatment processes, which makes it suitable for heat-sensitive substances such as the protein and enzymes found in most food products.
Reverse osmosis is extensively used in the dairy industry for the production of whey protein powders and for the concentration of milk to reduce shipping costs. In whey applications, the whey (liquid remaining after cheese manufacture) is concentrated with reverse osmosis from 6% total solids to 10–20% total solids before ultrafiltration processing. The ultrafiltration retentate can then be used to make various whey powders, including whey protein isolate. Additionally, the ultrafiltration permeate, which contains lactose, is concentrated by reverse osmosis from 5% total solids to 18–22% total solids to reduce crystallization and drying costs of the lactose powder.
Although use of the process was once avoided in the wine industry, it is now widely understood and used. An estimated 60 reverse osmosis machines were in use in Bordeaux, France, in 2002. Known users include many of the elite-classed growths (Kramer) such as Château Léoville-Las Cases in Bordeaux.
In 1946, some maple syrup producers started using reverse osmosis to remove water from sap before the sap is boiled down to syrup. The use of reverse osmosis allows about 75–90% of the water to be removed from the sap, reducing energy consumption and exposure of the syrup to high temperatures. Microbial contamination and degradation of the membranes must be monitored.
Many reef aquarium keepers use reverse osmosis systems for their artificial mixture of seawater. Ordinary tap water can contain excessive chlorine, chloramines, copper, nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, silicates, or many other chemicals detrimental to the sensitive organisms in a reef environment. Contaminants such as nitrogen compounds and phosphates can lead to excessive and unwanted algae growth. An effective combination of both reverse osmosis and deionization is the most popular among reef aquarium keepers, and is preferred above other water purification processes due to the low cost of ownership and minimal operating costs. Where chlorine and chloramines are found in the water, carbon filtration is needed before the membrane, as the common residential membrane used by reef keepers does not cope with these compounds.
An increasingly popular method of cleaning windows is the so-called "water-fed pole" system. Instead of washing the windows with detergent in the conventional way, they are scrubbed with highly purified water, typically containing less than 10 ppm dissolved solids, using a brush on the end of a long pole which is wielded from ground level. Reverse osmosis is commonly used to purify the water.
Treatment with reverse osmosis is limited, resulting in low recoveries on high concentration (measured with electrical conductivity) and fouling of the RO membranes. Reverse osmosis applicability is limited by conductivity, organics, and scaling inorganic elements such as CaSO4, Si, Fe and Ba. Low organic scaling can use two different technologies, one is using spiral wound membrane type of module, and for high organic scaling, high conductivity and higher pressure (up to 90 bars) disc tube modules with reverse-osmosis membranes can be used. Disc tube modules were redesigned for landfill leachate purification, that is usually contaminated with high levels of organic material. Due to the cross-flow with high velocity it is given a flow booster pump, that is recirculating the flow over the same membrane surface between 1.5 and 3 times before it is released as a concentrate. High velocity is also good against membrane scaling and allows successful membrane cleaning.
|energy consumption per m3 leachate|
|name of module||1-stage up to 75 bar||2-stage up to 75 bar||3-stage up to 120 bar|
|disc tube module||6.1 – 8.1 kWh/m3||8.1 – 9.8 kWh/m3||11.2 – 14.3 kWh/m3|
Areas that have either no or limited surface water or groundwater may choose to desalinate. Reverse osmosis is an increasingly common method of desalination, because of its relatively low energy consumption.
In recent years, energy consumption has dropped to around 3 kWh/m3, with the development of more efficient energy recovery devices and improved membrane materials. According to the International Desalination Association, for 2011, reverse osmosis was used in 66% of installed desalination capacity (0.0445 of 0.0674 km³/day), and nearly all new plants. Other plants mainly use thermal distillation methods: multiple-effect distillation and multi-stage flash.
Sea-water reverse-osmosis (SWRO) desalination, a membrane process, has been commercially used since the early 1970s. Its first practical use was demonstrated by Sidney Loeb from University of California at Los Angeles in Coalinga, California, and Srinivasa Sourirajan of National Research Council, Canada. Because no heating or phase changes are needed, energy requirements are low, around 3 kWh/m3, in comparison to other processes of desalination, but are still much higher than those required for other forms of water supply, including reverse osmosis treatment of wastewater, at 0.1 to 1 kWh/m3. Up to 50% of the seawater input can be recovered as fresh water, though lower recoveries may reduce membrane fouling and energy consumption.
Brackish water reverse osmosis refers to desalination of water with a lower salt content than sea water, usually from river estuaries or saline wells. The process is substantially the same as sea water reverse osmosis, but requires lower pressures and therefore less energy. Up to 80% of the feed water input can be recovered as fresh water, depending on feed salinity.
The Ashkelon sea water reverse osmosis desalination plant in Israel is the largest in the world. The project was developed as a build-operate-transfer by a consortium of three international companies: Veolia water, IDE Technologies, and Elran.
The typical single-pass sea water reverse osmosis system consists of:
Pretreatment is important when working with reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes due to the nature of their spiral-wound design. The material is engineered in such a fashion as to allow only one-way flow through the system. As such, the spiral-wound design does not allow for backpulsing with water or air agitation to scour its surface and remove solids. Since accumulated material cannot be removed from the membrane surface systems, they are highly susceptible to fouling (loss of production capacity). Therefore, pretreatment is a necessity for any reverse osmosis or nanofiltration system. Pretreatment in sea water reverse osmosis systems has four major components:
The high pressure pump supplies the pressure needed to push water through the membrane, even as the membrane rejects the passage of salt through it. Typical pressures for brackish water range from 1.6 to 2.6 MPa (225 to 376 psi). In the case of seawater, they range from 5.5 to 8 MPa (800 to 1,180 psi). This requires a large amount of energy. Where energy recovery is used, part of the high pressure pump's work is done by the energy recovery device, reducing the system energy inputs.
The membrane assembly consists of a pressure vessel with a membrane that allows feedwater to be pressed against it. The membrane must be strong enough to withstand whatever pressure is applied against it. Reverse-osmosis membranes are made in a variety of configurations, with the two most common configurations being spiral-wound and hollow-fiber.
Only a part of the saline feed water pumped into the membrane assembly passes through the membrane with the salt removed. The remaining "concentrate" flow passes along the saline side of the membrane to flush away the concentrated salt solution. The percentage of desalinated water produced versus the saline water feed flow is known as the "recovery ratio". This varies with the salinity of the feed water and the system design parameters: typically 20% for small seawater systems, 40% – 50% for larger seawater systems, and 80% – 85% for brackish water. The concentrate flow is at typically only 3 bar / 50 psi less than the feed pressure, and thus still carries much of the high-pressure pump input energy.
The desalinated water purity is a function of the feed water salinity, membrane selection and recovery ratio. To achieve higher purity a second pass can be added which generally requires re-pumping. Purity expressed as total dissolved solids typically varies from 100 to 400 parts per million (ppm or mg/litre)on a seawater feed. A level of 500 ppm is generally accepted as the upper limit for drinking water, while the US Food and Drug Administration classifies mineral water as water containing at least 250 ppm.
Energy recovery can reduce energy consumption by 50% or more. Much of the high pressure pump input energy can be recovered from the concentrate flow, and the increasing efficiency of energy recovery devices has greatly reduced the energy needs of reverse osmosis desalination. Devices used, in order of invention, are:
The desalinated water is "stabilized" to protect downstream pipelines and storage, usually by adding lime or caustic soda to prevent corrosion of concrete-lined surfaces. Liming material is used to adjust pH between 6.8 and 8.1 to meet the potable water specifications, primarily for effective disinfection and for corrosion control. Remineralisation may be needed to replace minerals removed from the water by desalination. Although this process has proved to be costly and not very convenient if it is intended to meet mineral demand by humans and plants. The very same mineral demand that freshwater sources provided previously. For instance water from Israel's national water carrier typically contains dissolved magnesium levels of 20 to 25 mg/liter, while water from the Ashkelon plant has no magnesium. After farmers used this water, magnesium-deficiency symptoms appeared in crops, including tomatoes, basil, and flowers, and had to be remedied by fertilization. Current Israeli drinking water standards set a minimum calcium level of 20 mg/liter. The postdesalination treatment in the Ashkelon plant uses sulfuric acid to dissolve calcite (limestone), resulting in calcium concentration of 40 to 46 mg/liter. This is still lower than the 45 to 60 mg/liter found in typical Israeli fresh water.
Post-treatment consists of preparing the water for distribution after filtration. Reverse osmosis is an effective barrier to pathogens, but post-treatment provides secondary protection against compromised membranes and downstream problems. Disinfection by means of ultra violet (UV) lamps (sometimes called germicidal or bactericidal) may be employed to sterilize pathogens which bypassed the reverse-osmosis process. Chlorination or chloramination (chlorine and ammonia) protects against pathogens which may have lodged in the distribution system downstream, such as from new construction, backwash, compromised pipes, etc.
Household reverse-osmosis units use a lot of water because they have low back pressure. As a result, they recover only 5 to 15% of the water entering the system. The remainder is discharged as waste water. Because waste water carries with it the rejected contaminants, methods to recover this water are not practical for household systems. Wastewater is typically connected to the house drains and will add to the load on the household septic system. A reverse-osmosis unit delivering 19 L of treated water per day may discharge between 75–340 L of waste water daily. This has a disastrous consequence for mega cities like Delhi where large-scale use of household R.O. devices has increased the total water demand of the already water parched National Capital Territory of India.
Large-scale industrial/municipal systems recover typically 75% to 80% of the feed water, or as high as 90%, because they can generate the high pressure needed for higher recovery reverse osmosis filtration. On the other hand, as recovery of wastewater increases in commercial operations, effective contaminant removal rates tend to become reduced, as evidenced by product water total dissolved solids levels.
Reverse osmosis per its construction removes both harmful contaminants present in the water, as well as some desirable minerals. Modern studies on this matter have been quite shallow, citing lack of funding and interest in such study, as re-mineralization on the treatment plants today is done to prevent pipeline corrosion without going into human health aspect. They do, however link to older, more thorough studies that at one hand show some relation between long-term health effects and consumption of water low on calcium and magnesium, on the other confess that none of these older studies comply to modern standards of research 
Depending upon the desired product, either the solvent or solute stream of reverse osmosis will be waste. For food concentration applications, the concentrated solute stream is the product and the solvent stream is waste. For water treatment applications, the solvent stream is purified water and the solute stream is concentrated waste. The solvent waste stream from food processing may be used as reclaimed water, but there may be fewer options for disposal of a concentrated waste solute stream. Ships may use marine dumping and coastal desalination plants typically use marine outfalls. Landlocked reverse osmosis plants may require evaporation ponds or injection wells to avoid polluting groundwater or surface runoff.
Since the 1970s, prefiltration of high-fouling waters with another larger-pore membrane, with less hydraulic energy requirement, has been evaluated and sometimes used. However, this means that the water passes through two membranes and is often repressurized, which requires more energy to be put into the system, and thus increases the cost.
Other recent developmental work has focused on integrating reverse osmosis with electrodialysis to improve recovery of valuable deionized products, or to minimize the volume of concentrate requiring discharge or disposal.
The world's largest RO desalination plant was built in Sorek, Israel, in 2013. It has an output of 624,000 m3 a day. It is also the cheapest and will sell water to the authorities for US$0.58/m3.
The Adelaide Desalination plant (ADP), formerly known as the Port Stanvac Desalination Plant, is a sea water reverse osmosis desalination plant located in Lonsdale, South Australia which has the capacity to provide the city of Adelaide with up to 50% of its drinking water needs.
In September 2007, South Australian Premier Mike Rann announced that the State Government would fund and build a desalination plant to insure Adelaide's water supply against drought. The plant was financed and built by SA Water, a state-owned corporation.
The plant was initially planned to have a capacity of 50 gigalitres (GL) of water per year, but was later doubled in capacity to 100 GL/year with the assistance of funding from the Australian Government. The expanded capacity represents around 50% of Adelaide's domestic water supply.
The plant was completed on time and within the original budget ($1.83 billion).
Stage one of the plant commenced operations in October 2011, and stage two commenced in July 2012. The plant was officially opened on 26 March 2013.The Adelaide Desalination Project is the largest infrastructure project that the State of South Australia has funded, owns, and has completed successfully.Since 2012, the plant has been operating at 10% of its capacity to keep it functioning. In 2017, it produced 2% of the state's water supply.Bishop Subbasin
The Bishop Subbasin is an aquifer that resides between two subsurface structures of the Tassajara Formation in the northern extremity of the Amador Valley, California. This aquifer is a sub-unit of the Livermore-Amador Groundwater Basin. The Bishop Subbasin is associated with the locale of San Ramon, California in Contra Costa County. The Bishop Subbasin along with the Mocho Subbasin is one of the aquifers in the Livermore Valley that has been studied the most heavily for benefits of injection of reclaimed reverse osmosis waters.Desalination
Desalination is a process that takes away mineral components from saline water. More generally, desalination refers to the removal of salts and minerals from a target substance, as in soil desalination, which is an issue for agriculture.Saltwater is desalinated to produce water suitable for human consumption or irrigation. One by-product of desalination is salt. Desalination is used on many seagoing ships and submarines. Most of the modern interest in desalination is focused on cost-effective provision of fresh water for human use. Along with recycled wastewater, it is one of the few rainfall-independent water sources.Due to its energy consumption, desalinating sea water is generally more costly than fresh water from rivers or groundwater, water recycling and water conservation. However, these alternatives are not always available and depletion of reserves is a critical problem worldwide.
Desalination processes are usually either driven by either thermal (e.g. distillation) or electrical (e.g., photovoltaic or wind power) as the primary energy types.
Currently, approximately 1% of the world's population is dependent on desalinated water to meet daily needs, but the UN expects that 14% of the world's population will encounter water scarcity by 2025.
Desalination is particularly relevant in dry countries such as Australia, which traditionally have relied on collecting rainfall behind dams for water.
According to the International Desalination Association, in June 2015, 18,426 desalination plants operated worldwide, producing 86.8 million cubic meters per day, providing water for 300 million people. This number increased from 78.4 million cubic meters in 2013, a 10.71% increase in 2 years. The single largest desalination project is Ras Al-Khair in Saudi Arabia, which produced 1,025,000 cubic meters per day in 2014. Kuwait produces a higher proportion of its water than any other country, totaling 100% of its water use.Forward osmosis
Forward osmosis (FO) is an osmotic process that, like reverse osmosis (RO), uses a semi-permeable membrane to effect separation of water from dissolved solutes. The driving force for this separation is an osmotic pressure gradient, such that a "draw" solution of high concentration (relative to that of the feed solution), is used to induce a net flow of water through the membrane into the draw solution, thus effectively separating the feed water from its solutes. In contrast, the reverse osmosis process uses hydraulic pressure as the driving force for separation, which serves to counteract the osmotic pressure gradient that would otherwise favor water flux from the permeate to the feed. Hence significantly more energy is required for reverse osmosis compared to forward osmosis.
The simplest equation describing the relationship between osmotic and hydraulic pressures and water (solvent) flux is:
where is water flux, A is the hydraulic permeability of the membrane, Δπ is the difference in osmotic pressures on the two sides of the membrane, and ΔP is the difference in hydrostatic pressure (negative values of indicating reverse osmotic flow). The modeling of these relationships is in practice more complex than this equation indicates, with flux depending on the membrane, feed, and draw solution characteristics, as well as the fluid dynamics within the process itself.
The solute flux () for each individual solute can be modelled by Fick’s Law
Where is the solute permeability coefficient and is the trans-membrane concentration differential for the solute. It is clear from this governing equation that a solute will diffuse from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. This is well known in reverse osmosis where solutes from the feedwater diffuse to the product water, however in the case of forward osmosis the situation can be far more complicated.
In FO processes we may have solute diffusion in both directions depending on the composition of the draw solution and the feed water. This does two things; the draw solution solutes may diffuse to the feed solution and the feed solution solutes may diffuse to the draw solution. Clearly these phenomena have consequences in terms of the selection of the draw solution for any particular FO process. For instance the loss of draw solution may affect the feed solution perhaps due to environmental issues or contamination of the feed stream, such as in osmotic membrane bioreactors.
An additional distinction between the reverse osmosis (RO) and forward osmosis (FO) processes is that the permeate water resulting from an RO process is in most cases fresh water ready for use. In the FO process, this is not the case. The membrane separation of the FO process in effect results in a "trade" between the solutes of the feed solution and the draw solution. Depending on the concentration of solutes in the feed (which dictates the necessary concentration of solutes in the draw) and the intended use of the product of the FO process, this step may be all that is required.
The forward osmosis process is also known as osmosis or in the case of a number of companies who have coined their own terminology 'engineered osmosis' and 'manipulated osmosis'.Fujairah power and desalination plant
Fujairah power and desalination plant is a hybrid plant at Qidfa', Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. It is located next to the Qidfa Power Station 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Khor Fakkan and 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city of Fujairah. When constructed, the Fujairah plant was the first hybrid plant in the Middle East, and the largest desalination hybrid plant in the world.Geothermal desalination
Geothermal desalination is a process under development for the production of fresh water using heat energy. Claimed benefits of this method of desalination are that it requires less maintenance than reverse osmosis membranes and that the primary energy input is from geothermal heat, which is a low-environmental-impact source of energy.
Circa 1995, Douglas Firestone from Nevada devised the use of geothermal water directly as a source for desalination. In 1998, several individuals began working with evaporation/condensation air loop water desalination. The experiment was successful and a proof of concept, proving that geothermal waters could be used as process water to produce potable water in 2001.
In 2005 to 2009 testing was done in a sixth prototype of a device referred to as a delta t device, a closed air loop, atmospheric pressure, evaporation condensation loop geothermally powered desalination device. The device used filtered sea water from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and reduced the salt concentration from 35,000 ppm to 51 ppm.
A total of six prototypes and six modifications demonstrated that, with process water approaching 100 °C (212 °F) and a chill source about 2 °C (36 °F), a full-size device would produce about 600 m³ of water per day. Salt concentration in the wastewater would only be about 10% above the level of the original water, thus, from, say, 35,000 to about 38,000 parts per million, well within the ability of osmoregulators to adjust.Kent RO Systems
Kent RO Systems is an Indian healthcare products company headquartered in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. It makes water purifiers based on the process of reverse osmosis purification. Over the years the company has diversified into other products such as air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, vegetable and fruit purifiers and water softeners. The company exports to SAARC countries, Middle East, and Kenya. It expects a contribution of 15% of total turnover to come from exports in the near future. The company won the Golden Peacock Eco Innovation Award for its contribution in developing innovative water purifying technology and preventing environment degradation in 2007.Membrane
A membrane is a selective barrier; it allows some things to pass through but stops others. Such things may be molecules, ions, or other small particles. Biological membranes include cell membranes (outer coverings of cells or organelles that allow passage of certain constituents); nuclear membranes, which cover a cell nucleus; and tissue membranes, such as mucosae and serosae. Synthetic membranes are made by humans for use in laboratories and industry (such as chemical plants).
This concept of a membrane has been known since the eighteenth century, but was used little outside of the laboratory until the end of World War II. Drinking water supplies in Europe had been compromised by the war and membrane filters were used to test for water safety. However, due to the lack of reliability, slow operation, reduced selectivity and elevated costs, membranes were not widely exploited. The first use of membranes on a large scale was with micro-filtration and ultra-filtration technologies. Since the 1980s, these separation processes, along with electrodialysis, are employed in large plants and, today, a number of experienced companies serve the market.The degree of selectivity of a membrane depends on the membrane pore size. Depending on the pore size, they can be classified as microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes. Membranes can also be of various thickness, with homogeneous or heterogeneous structure. Membranes can be neutral or charged, and particle transport can be active or passive. The latter can be facilitated by pressure, concentration, chemical or electrical gradients of the membrane process. Membranes can be generally classified into synthetic membranes and biological membranes.Microfiltration
Microfiltration is a type of physical filtration process where a contaminated fluid is passed through a special pore-sized membrane to separate microorganisms and suspended particles from process liquid. It is commonly used in conjunction with various other separation processes such as ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis to provide a product stream which is free of undesired contaminants.Osmosis
Osmosis () is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides. It may also be used to describe a physical process in which any solvent moves across a selectively permeable membrane (permeable to the solvent, but not the solute) separating two solutions of different concentrations. Osmosis can be made to do work. Osmotic pressure is defined as the external pressure required to be applied so that there is no net movement of solvent across the membrane. Osmotic pressure is a colligative property, meaning that the osmotic pressure depends on the molar concentration of the solute but not on its identity.
Osmosis is a vital process in biological systems, as biological membranes are semipermeable. In general, these membranes are impermeable to large and polar molecules, such as ions, proteins, and polysaccharides, while being permeable to non-polar or hydrophobic molecules like lipids as well as to small molecules like oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and nitric oxide. Permeability depends on solubility, charge, or chemistry, as well as solute size. Water molecules travel through the plasma membrane, tonoplast membrane (vacuole) or protoplast by diffusing across the phospholipid bilayer via aquaporins (small transmembrane proteins similar to those responsible for facilitated diffusion and ion channels). Osmosis provides the primary means by which water is transported into and out of cells. The turgor pressure of a cell is largely maintained by osmosis across the cell membrane between the cell interior and its relatively hypotonic environment.Reverse Osmosis (group)
Reverse Osmosis is a seventeen-person co-ed a cappella group at the University of Southern California founded in January 2001. Reverse Osmosis (RO) routinely performs on the USC campus, but has also toured the East and West Coast, performing in Times Square in NYC and Ghirardelli Square on San Francisco Bay. RO is a perennial competitor in the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella competition.
In the 2005-2006 ICCA competition, RO took first place overall in the Quarterfinal round held at USC's Bovard Auditorium. They also received special awards that night for best soloist (Jordan Koppelman for "Fix You") best arrangement (David Stal for "Fix You") best vocal percussion (Baraka May for "Fix You") and best choreography (Joey Payo and Melissa Joseph).
At the West Seminfal round, held at Stanford University on March 18, 2006, RO placed 2nd overall. Due to a timing error, however, the judges missed a significant portion of Reverse Osmosis' performance. RO was then invited to the final round so that they could have a fair chance to perform their set in full for the ICCA judges, thus becoming the first group from USC to reach the ICCA Finals.
On April 29, 2006, RO performed their award-winning set at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City. Once again, they were awarded best vocal percussion (Baraka May for "Fix You").A documentary, Rock and R.O., was filmed about the group and has been screened at the Newport Beach and Westwood Film Festival in Southern California. The feature-length movie was shown most recently at Florida's Delray Beach Film Festival, where it was named Official Selection and won the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary. On May 20, 2009, Reverse Osmosis opened for Ben Folds at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles.Reverse osmosis plant
A reverse osmosis plant is a manufacturing plant where the process of reverse osmosis takes place. An average modern reverse osmosis plant needs six kilowatt-hours of electricity to desalinate one cubic metre of water. The process also results in an amount of salty briny waste. The challenge for these plants is to find ways to reduce energy consumption, use sustainable energy sources, improve the process of desalination and to innovate in the area of waste management to deal with the waste. Self-contained water treatment plants using reverse osmosis, called reverse osmosis water purification units, are normally used in a military context.Richard Stover
Richard Lindsay Stover, Ph.D., pioneered the development of the PX Pressure Exchanger energy recovery device Energy recovery that is currently in use in most seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants in existence today.
Stover is a water industry veteran with 25 years of commercial and technical experience, dedicated to making global water resources sustainable through improved water treatment efficiency.Seawater desalination in Australia
Australia is the driest inhabitable continent on Earth and its installed desalination capacity comprises around 1% of the world’s total. Until a few decades ago, Australia met its demands for water by drawing freshwater from dams and water catchments. As a result of the water supply crisis during the severe 1997–2009 drought, state governments began building desalination plants that purify seawater using reverse osmosis technology.
Australia's first desalination plant dates from 1903 and several more operated during the 20th century. The first modern large-scale desalination plant was the Kwinana plant in Perth, completed in November 2006 and over 30 plants are currently operating across the country. Many plants are utilizing nearby wind or wave farms to use renewable energy and reduce operating costs, and solar powered desalination units are used for remote communities.Semipermeable membrane
A semipermeable membrane is a type of biological or synthetic, polymeric membrane that will allow certain molecules or ions to pass through it by diffusion—or occasionally by more specialized processes of facilitated diffusion, passive transport or active transport. The rate of passage depends on the pressure, concentration, and temperature of the molecules or solutes on either side, as well as the permeability of the membrane to each solute. Depending on the membrane and the solute, permeability may depend on solute size, solubility, properties, or chemistry. How the membrane is constructed to be selective in its permeability will determine the rate and the permeability. Many natural and synthetic materials thicker than a membrane are also semipermeable. One example of this is the thin film on the inside of the egg.
Note that a semipermeable membrane is not the same as a selectively permeable membrane. Semipermeable membrane describes a membrane that allows some particles to pass through (by size), whereas the selectively permeable membrane "chooses" what passes through (size is not a factor).Silt density index
The silt density index is a measure for the fouling capacity of water in reverse osmosis systems. The test measures the rate at which a 0.45-micrometre filter is plugged when subjected to a constant water pressure of 206.8 kPa (30 psi). The SDI gives the percent drop per minute in the flow rate of the water through the filter, averaged over a period of time such as 15 minutes.Typically, spiral-wound reverse osmosis systems will need an SDI less than 5, and hollow fiber reverse osmosis systems will need an SDI less than 3. In these kinds of systems, deep-well waters (with a typical SDI of 3) could be used straight from the source. If fed from surface waters (with a typical SDI greater than 6), the water will need to be filtered before use. Seawater desalination plants utilising reverse osmosis systems also need very efficient filtering due to the typically high but variable SDI of seawater.Solar-powered desalination unit
A solar-powered desalination unit produces potable water from saline water through direct or indirect methods of desalination powered by sunlight. Countries such as Australia, Italy and Egypt have adopted this system as an alternative source of water for the population. Solar energy is the most promising renewable energy source due to its ability to drive the more popular thermal desalination systems directly through solar collectors and to drive physical and chemical desalination systems indirectly through photovoltaic cells.Direct solar desalination produces distillate directly in the solar collector. An example would be a solar still which traps the Sun's energy to obtain freshwater through the process of evaporation and condensation. Indirect solar desalination incorporates solar energy collection systems with conventional desalination systems such as multi-stage flash distillation, multiple effect evaporation, freeze separation or reverse osmosis to produce freshwater.Solar desalination
Solar desalination is a technique to desalinate water using solar energy. There are two basic methods of achieving desalination using this technique; direct and indirect. Sunlight may provide heat for evaporative desalination processes, or for some indirect methods, convert to electricity to power a membrane process.Water softening
Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and certain other metal cations in hard water. The resulting soft water requires less soap for the same cleaning effort, as soap is not wasted mopping up calcium ions. Soft water also extends the lifetime of plumbing by reducing or eliminating scale build-up in pipes and fittings. Water softening is usually achieved using lime softening or ion-exchange resins but is increasingly being accomplished using nanofiltration or reverse osmosis membranes.