TCM and CA: Two Types of Reverse Osmosis Systems

Most water quality experts agree that reverse osmosis is the best way to purify contaminated water. While the process can be counted on to remove most, if not all, impurities and unwanted chemicals in the water, reverse osmosis is also a slow process. As such, it’s important for households and commercial establishments alike to pick the best reverse osmosis systems that suit their needs and produce safe, clean water within a reasonable time.

Thankfully, reverse osmosis systems can be easily classified based on the kind of semipermeable membrane they use—cellulose acetate (CA) and thin film composite (TCM) membranes.

Developed in 1962, the CA membrane is also the world’s first commercially available reverse osmosis membrane. Today, CA systems have high water permeability, high pressure tolerance, and strong resistance against damage from chlorinated water. Compared to TCM membranes, CA membranes are less effective at filtering out salts and impurities, although their performance can be improved by adjusting the temperature of the reverse osmosis system.

TCM membranes, on the other hand, can filter out close to a 100 percent of all unwanted elements in the water and even operate in 10+ pH environments. That being said, they are typically not as sturdy as CA membranes, especially considering their low chlorine tolerance.

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