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The Operation and Role of Industrial RO Systems

However closely one may inspect the colourful plants we grow, it is hard to believe that any feature of their physiology could lead to developing an advanced nanofiltration technology with numerous applications in many different industries. Nevertheless, the principle underlying the industrial RO systems that have revolutionised water purification and many similar tasks owes its origin to the method plants employ to transport nutrients and to stop their stems from wilting. The method in question is osmosis, and the two-letter acronym is an abbreviation for reverse osmosis.

Filtration takes many forms. It can involve something as simple as the perforated metal strainer fitted to kitchen sinks and whose task is to prevent bits of food and other solids from blocking the waste pipe. However, a strainer can only trap relatively large particles. By contrast, industrial RO systems can have a pore size of around a thousandth of a micron, so they can easily remove bacteria, viruses and even metal ions from drinking water and other fluids.

In nature, the passage of water through cell walls depends on the intracellular and extracellular solute concentrations. Where these differ, the side on which the concentration is lower exerts an osmotic pressure that drives water molecules through the cell wall until the solute concentrations on both sides are equal. By contrast, industrial RO systems apply external pressure to counter osmotic pressure, thus preventing equilibrium and driving all of the water through a membrane, leaving only the dissolved and undissolved solids behind.

For filtration purposes, a synthetic semi-permeable membrane, typically cellulose acetate, substitutes for the cellulose cell walls of a plant. Based on the sub-micron pore size, this form of membrane filtration is invariably the option of choice for applications in which an exceptionally pure filtrate is essential. Food and beverage producers, pharmaceutical companies and water treatment plants are just a few examples of businesses that rely on industrial RO systems to ensure a high degree of water purity.

While this technology has long formed the final “polishing stage” in the production of potable water for delivery to homes and businesses, it has also proved its worth in a much newer form of water treatment in recent years. After years of relying on distillation and the combustion of costly and environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels to boil seawater, desalination plants have embraced reverse osmosis to filter out the unwanted salt. It now seems that industrial RO systems could enable desalination plants to produce potable water as cheaply or even cheaper than conventional treatment plants.

If you would like to learn more about how reverse osmosis could meet your company’s filtration needs, then chat with the specialists at Watericon.