Unless you work in one of the industries that use a reverse osmosis water system, it’s likely you’re not familiar with exactly what it is and what it does. It’s very easy to get baffled by long words and science, but in reality it’s not too difficult to get a grasp on what this high tech process entails. And you may be surprised that it’s actually inspired by nature. The following is a layman’s explanation in very simple terms of how a reverse osmosis water system works and why we use them in an industrial context. Understanding the Process In order to understand how it works, first it’s helpful to know exactly what the naturally occurring process of osmosis is. This is one of our most important natural phenomena, which happens not only in nature, in the roots of plants, but also in our own human body, in the kidneys. It occurs when a solution with weak salinity (salt content) migrates to one with a higher salinity. So, conversely, a reverse osmosis water system uses a non-chemical, high-pressure process to separate and remove potential harmful contaminants (like minerals and ions). It’s done by forcing the liquid through a semi-permeable membrane, which allows water molecules to pass, but not contaminants like salts, ions, bacterias, organics and pyrogens. The concentrate (with the harmful elements) remains on one side of the membrane and what passes through to the other side is entirely pure. It is basically using a process invented by nature in reverse! Why Do We Use It? In addition to the production of potable drinking water, it’s used in a range of industrial processes that require water purification. Just two of the benefits of the system are that it doesn’t use chemicals and it doesn’t require the use of thermal energy. Instead, it uses high-pressure pumps to push it through the membrane. It can considerably help decrease production costs in a commercial or industrial setting and, in some cases, even the reject product can be treated and reused Not a One Size Fits All Solution There are various different reverse osmosis water systems available to suit a huge range of applications. They provide different flow rates (from 300L per hour to more than 8000L per hour) and permeate pressure depending on the size of the operation, the amount that needs to be treated, and at what rate. The range of industries that currently employ this technology is vast, but as an example include: Hospitals Pharmaceutical Agriculture Power/energy Hospitality Waste water processing Military Marine Offshore Thinking to the Future As well as the benefits of its commercial and industrial applications, there is huge potential to develop the systems into the future in order to attempt to counteract the limited amounts of freshwater available to us, by utilising the vast tracts of ocean on our planet. While this is certainly not an exhaustive explanation about how this fascinating process works, for those non-scientific people looking to understand how and why more and more industries are turning to it, it could prove a helpful insight. Author Plate Sean Clifford is an advisor at AllWater Technologies Ltd, a wholly independent company providing consultation and water treatment equipment, including reverse osmosis water systems and effluent treatment plant. Bringing together a host of experience and specialist knowledge, the company is committed to building and maintaining long-term relationships and creating maximum value and benefit for their customers.
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