People first came up with reverse osmosis (RO) as a way to remove salt from seawater, commonly referred to as “desalination”. This helped ease the shortage of drinking water supply experienced in some areas. The use of RO, however, goes beyond desalination as the process can also be used in wastewater treatment, water recycling, and even in producing energy.
Today, RO systems are available for use in residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Each level of use presents different requirements, with commercial and industrial levels obviously having higher demands. So, over the years, developments have been made in order to optimize how the systems function.
There are three areas that are explored in the optimization of RO systems: the pretreatment of feed water, membrane technologies, and flow configuration.
- In pretreatment, a certain amount of dissolved solids are taken out of the water before it is supplied to the membrane, which makes for a better efficiency in the operation of the membrane and overall enhancement of the system’s performance.
- Newer membrane technologies allow larger membrane permeability and surface area, which lead to increased system performance that reduces water and energy use.
- Improvements in flow configuration reduces water used with optimal designs for recirculating water throughout the system.
With the above, commercial reverse osmosis systems become less energy intensive. Thus, energy costs aren’t too heavy for producing large output.