Reverse Osmosis / Water Purifier
Reverse Osmosis and Water Purifiers
The term reverse osmosis comes from the process of osmosis, the natural movement of solvent from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration if no external pressure is applied.
In simple terms, reverse osmosis is the process of pushing a solution through a filter that traps the solute on one side and allows the pure solvent to be obtained from the other side. More formally, it is the process of forcing a solvent from a region of high solute concentration through a membrane to a region of low solute concentration by applying a pressure in excess of the osmosis pressure. The membrane here is semipermeable, meaning it allows the passage of solvent but not of solute.The membranes used for reverse osmosis have no pores, the separation takes place in a dense polymer layer of only microscopic thickness. In most cases the membrane is designed to only allow water to pass through.
When two solutions with different concentrations of a solute are mixed , the total amount of solutes in the two solutions will be equally distributed in the total amount of solvent from the two solutions. This is achieved by diffusion, in which solutes will move from areas of higher concentration to areas of lower concentrations until the concentration in all the different areas of the resulting mixture are the same, a state called equilibrium.
Instead of mixing the two solutions together, they can be put in two compartments where they are separated from each other by a semipermeable membrane. The semipermeable membrane does not allow the solutes to move from one compartment to the other, but allows the solvent to move. Since equilibrium cannot be achieved by the movement of solutes from the compartment with high solute concentration to the one with low solute concentration, it is instead, achieved by the movement of the solvent from areas of low solute concentration to areas of high solute concentration. When the solvent moves away from low concentration areas, it causes these areas to become more concentrated. On the other side, when the solvent moves into areas of high concentration, solute concentration will decrease. This process is termed osmosis. The tendency for solvent to flow through the membrane can be expressed as "osmotic pressure", since it is analogous to flow caused by a pressure diferential.
In reverse osmosis, in a similar setup as that in osmosis, pressure is applied to the compartment with high concentration. In this case, there are two forces to consider influencing the movement of water: the pressure caused by the difference in solute concentration between the two compartments (the osmotic pressure) and the externally applied pressure. In the same way as in conventional osmosis, the solute cannot move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure because the membrane is not permeable to it, only the solvent can pass through the membrane. When the effect of the externally applied pressure is greater than that of the concentration difference, net solvent movement will be from areas of high solute concentration to low solute concentration, and reverse osmosis occurs.