Reverse Osmosis and RO Meters – MyronLMeters.com
Schematics of a reverse osmosis system (desalination) using a pressure exchanger.
1: Sea water inflow,
2: Fresh water flow (40%),
3: Concentrate flow (60%),
4: Sea water flow (60%),
5: Concentrate (drain),
A: Pump flow (40%),
B: Circulation pump,
C: Osmosis unit with membrane,
D: Pressure exchanger
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a membrane-technology filtration method that removes many types of large molecules and ions from solutions by applying pressure to the solution when it is on one side of a selective membrane. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be “selective,” this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as the solvent) to pass freely.
In normal osmosis, the solvent naturally moves from an area of low solute concentration (High Water Potential), through a membrane to an area of high solute concentration (Low Water Potential). The movement of a pure solvent to equalize solute concentrations on each side of a membrane generates osmotic pressure. Applying an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of pure solvent, thus, is reverse osmosis. The process is similar to other membrane technology applications. However, there are key differences between reverse osmosis and filtration. The predominant removal mechanism in membrane filtration is straining, or size exclusion, so the process can theoretically achieve perfect exclusion of particles regardless of operational parameters such as influent pressure and concentration. Reverse osmosis, however, involves a diffusive mechanism so that separation efficiency is dependent on solute concentration, pressure, and water flux rate. Reverse osmosis is most commonly known for its use in drinking water purification from seawater, removing the salt and other substances from the water molecules.
Reverse osmosis is the process of forcing a solvent from a region of high solute concentration through a semipermeable membrane to a region of low solute concentration by applying a pressure in excess of the osmotic pressure. The largest and most important application of reverse osmosis is to the separation of pure water from seawater and brackish waters; seawater or brackish water is pressurized against one surface of the membrane, causing transport of salt-depleted water across the membrane and emergence of potable drinking water from the low-pressure side.
The membranes used for reverse osmosis have a dense layer in the polymer matrix — either the skin of an asymmetric membrane or an interfacially polymerized layer within a thin-film-composite membrane — where the separation occurs. In most cases, the membrane is designed to allow only water to pass through this dense layer, while preventing the passage of solutes (such as salt ions). This process requires that a high pressure be exerted on the high concentration side of the membrane, usually 2–17 bar (30–250 psi) for fresh and brackish water, and 40–82 bar (600–1200 psi) for seawater, which has around 27 bar (390 psi) natural osmotic pressure that must be overcome. This process is best known for its use in desalination (removing the salt and other minerals from sea water to get fresh water), but since the early 1970s it has also been used to purify fresh water for medical, industrial, and domestic applications.
Osmosis describes how solvent moves between two solutions separated by a permeable membrane to reduce concentration differences between the solutions. 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. 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 differential. Osmosis is an example of diffusion.
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 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.
Around the world, household drinking water purification systems, including a reverse osmosis step, are commonly used for improving water for drinking and cooking.
Such systems typically include a number of steps:
a sediment filter to trap particles, including rust and calcium carbonate
optionally, a second sediment filter with smaller pores
an activated carbon filter to trap organic chemicals and chlorine, which will attack and degrade TFC reverse osmosis membranes
a reverse osmosis (RO) filter, which is a thin film composite membrane (TFM or TFC)
optionally, a second carbon filter to capture those chemicals not removed by the RO membrane
optionally an ultra-violet lamp for sterilizing any microbes that may escape filtering by the reverse osmosis membrane
In some systems, the carbon prefilter is omitted, and cellulose triacetate membrane (CTA) is used. The CTA membrane is prone to rotting unless protected by chlorinated water, while the TFC membrane is prone to breaking down under the influence of chlorine. In CTA systems, a carbon postfilter is needed to remove chlorine from the final product, water.
Portable reverse osmosis (RO) water processors are sold for personal water purification. To work effectively, the water feeding to these units should be under some pressure (40 psi or greater is the norm). Portable RO water processors can be used by people who live in rural areas without clean water, far away from the city’s water pipes. Rural people filter river or ocean water themselves, as the device is easy to use (saline water may need special membranes). Some travelers on long boating, fishing, or island camping trips, or in countries where the local water supply is polluted or substandard, use RO water processors coupled with one or more UV sterilizers. RO systems are also now extensively used by marine aquarium enthusiasts. In the production of bottled mineral water, the water passes through an RO water processor to remove pollutants and microorganisms. In European countries, though, such processing of Natural Mineral Water (as defined by a European Directive) is not allowed under European law. In practice, a fraction of the living bacteria can and do pass through RO membranes through minor imperfections, or bypass the membrane entirely through tiny leaks in surrounding seals. Thus, complete RO systems may include additional water treatment stages that use ultraviolet light or ozone to prevent microbiological contamination.
Membrane pore sizes can vary from 0.1 nanometres (3.9×10−9 in) to 5,000 nanometres (0.00020 in) depending on filter type. “Particle filtration” removes particles of 1 micrometre (3.9×10−5 in) or larger. Microfiltration removes particles of 50 nm or larger. “Ultrafiltration” removes particles of roughly 3 nm or larger. “Nanofiltration” removes particles of 1 nm or larger. Reverse osmosis is in the final category of membrane filtration, “hyperfiltration”, and removes particles larger than 0.1 nm.
Water and waste water purification
Rain water collected from storm drains is purified with reverse osmosis water processors and used for landscape irrigation and industrial cooling in Los Angeles and other cities, as a solution to the problem of water shortages.
In industry, reverse osmosis removes minerals from boiler water at power plants. The water is boiled and condensed repeatedly. It must be as pure as possible so that it does not leave deposits on the machinery or cause corrosion. The deposits inside or outside the boiler tubes may result in under-performance of the boiler, bringing down its efficiency and resulting in poor steam production, hence poor power production at turbine.
It is also used to clean effluent and brackish groundwater. The effluent in larger volumes (more than 500 cu. meter per day) should be treated in an effluent treatment plant first, and then the clear effluent is subjected to reverse osmosis system. Treatment cost is reduced significantly and membrane life of the RO system is increased.
The process of reverse osmosis can be used for the production of deionized water.
RO process for water purification does not require thermal energy. Flow through RO system can be regulated by high pressure pump. The recovery of purified water depends upon various factors including membrane sizes, membrane pore size, temperature, operating pressure and membrane surface area.
In 2002, Singapore announced that a process named NEWater would be a significant part of its future water plans. It involves using reverse osmosis to treat domestic wastewater before discharging the NEWater back into the reservoirs.
In addition to desalination, reverse osmosis is a more economical operation for concentrating food liquids (such as fruit juices) than conventional heat-treatment processes. Research has been done on concentration of orange juice and tomato juice. Its advantages include a lower operating cost and the ability to avoid heat-treatment processes, which makes it suitable for heat-sensitive substances like the protein and enzymes found in most food products.
Reverse osmosis is extensively used in the dairy industry for the production of whey protein powders and for the concentration of milk to reduce shipping costs. In whey applications, the whey (liquid remaining after cheese manufacture) is concentrated with RO from 6% total solids to 10–20% total solids before UF (ultrafiltration) processing. The UF retentate can then be used to make various whey powders, including whey protein isolate used in bodybuilding formulations. Additionally, the UF permeate, which contains lactose, is concentrated by RO from 5% total solids to 18–22% total solids to reduce crystallization and drying costs of the lactose powder.
Although use of the process was once avoided in the wine industry, it is now widely understood and used. An estimated 60 reverse osmosis machines were in use in Bordeaux, France in 2002. Known users include many of the elite classed growths.
Because of its lower mineral content, reverse osmosis water is often used in car washes during the final vehicle rinse to prevent water spotting on the vehicle. Reverse osmosis is often used to conserve and recycle water within the wash/pre-rinse cycles, especially in drought stricken areas where water conservation is important. Reverse osmosis water also enables the car wash operator to reduce the demands on the vehicle drying equipment, such as air blowers.
Maple syrup production
In 1946, some maple syrup producers started using reverse osmosis to remove water from sap before the sap is boiled down to syrup. The use of reverse osmosis allows approximately 75-90% of the water to be removed from the sap, reducing energy consumption and exposure of the syrup to high temperatures. Microbial contamination and degradation of the membranes has to be monitored.
For small-scale production of hydrogen, reverse osmosis is sometimes used to prevent formation of minerals on the surface of electrodes.
Many reef aquarium keepers use reverse osmosis systems for their artificial mixture of seawater. Ordinary tap water can often contain excessive chlorine, chloramines, copper, nitrogen, phosphates, silicates, or many other chemicals detrimental to the sensitive organisms in a reef environment. Contaminants such as nitrogen compounds and phosphates can lead to excessive, and unwanted, algae growth. An effective combination of both reverse osmosis and deionization (RO/DI) is the most popular among reef aquarium keepers, and is preferred above other water purification processes due to the low cost of ownership and minimal operating costs. Where chlorine and chloramines are found in the water, carbon filtration is needed before the membrane, as the common residential membrane used by reef keepers does not cope with these compounds.
Areas that have either no or limited surface water or groundwater may choose to desalinate seawater or brackish water to obtain drinking water. Reverse osmosis is a common method of desalination, although 85 percent of desalinated water is produced in multistage flash plants.
Large reverse osmosis and multistage flash desalination plants are used in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. The energy requirements of the plants are large, but electricity can be produced relatively cheaply with the abundant oil reserves in the region. The desalination plants are often located adjacent to the power plants, which reduces energy losses in transmission and allows waste heat to be used in the desalination process of multistage flash plants, reducing the amount of energy needed to desalinate the water and providing cooling for the power plant.
Sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) is a reverse osmosis desalination membrane process that has been commercially used since the early 1970s. Its first practical use was demonstrated by Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan from UCLA in Coalinga, California. Because no heating or phase changes are needed, energy requirements are low in comparison to other processes of desalination, but are still much higher than those required for other forms of water supply (including reverse osmosis treatment of wastewater).
The Ashkelon seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant in Israel is the largest in the world. The project was developed as a BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) by a consortium of three international companies: Veolia water, IDE Technologies and Elran.
The typical single-pass SWRO system consists of the following components:
High pressure pump
Remineralization and pH adjustment
Pretreatment is important when working with RO and nanofiltration (NF) membranes due to the nature of their spiral wound design. The material is engineered in such a fashion as to allow only one-way flow through the system. As such, the spiral wound design does not allow for backpulsing with water or air agitation to scour its surface and remove solids. Since accumulated material cannot be removed from the membrane surface systems, they are highly susceptible to fouling (loss of production capacity). Therefore, pretreatment is a necessity for any RO or NF system. Pretreatment in SWRO systems has four major components:
Screening of solids: Solids within the water must be removed and the water treated to prevent fouling of the membranes by fine particle or biological growth, and reduce the risk of damage to high-pressure pump components.
Cartridge filtration: Generally, string-wound polypropylene filters are used to remove particles of 1–5 µm diameter.
Dosing: Oxidizing biocides, such as chlorine, are added to kill bacteria, followed by bisulfite dosing to deactivate the chlorine, which can destroy a thin-film composite membrane. There are also biofouling inhibitors, which do not kill bacteria, but simply prevent them from growing slime on the membrane surface and plant walls.
Prefiltration pH adjustment: If the pH, hardness and the alkalinity in the feedwater result in a scaling tendency when they are concentrated in the reject stream, acid is dosed to maintain carbonates in their soluble carbonic acid form.
CO32– + H3O+ = HCO3– + H2O
HCO3– + H3O+ = H2CO3 + H2O
Carbonic acid cannot combine with calcium to form calcium carbonate scale. Calcium carbonate scaling tendency is estimated using the Langelier saturation index (LSI). Adding too much sulfuric acid to control carbonate scales may result in calcium sulfate, barium sulfate or strontium sulfate scale formation on the RO membrane.
Antiscalants: Scale inhibitors (also known as antiscalants) prevent formation of all scales compared to acid, which can only prevent formation of calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate scales. In addition to inhibiting carbonate and phosphate scales, antiscalants inhibit sulfate and fluoride scales, disperse colloids and metal oxides. Despite claims that antiscalants can inhibit silica formation, there is no concrete evidence to prove that silica polymerization can be inhibited by antiscalants. Antiscalants can control acid soluble scales at a fraction of the dosage required to control the same scale using sulfuric acid.
Some small scale desalination units use Beach wells, they are usually drilled on the seashore in close vicinity to the ocean. These intake facilities are relatively simple to build and the seawater they collect is pretreated via slow filtration through the subsurface sand/seabed formations in the area of source water extraction. Raw seawater collected using beach wells is often of better quality in terms of solids, silt, oil and grease, natural organic contamination and aquatic microorganisms, compared to open seawater intakes. Sometimes, beach intakes may also yield source water of lower salinity.
High pressure pump
The pump supplies the pressure needed to push water through the membrane, even as the membrane rejects the passage of salt through it. Typical pressures for brackish water range from 225 to 375 psi (15.5 to 26 bar, or 1.6 to 2.6 MPa). In the case of seawater, they range from 800 to 1,180 psi (55 to 81.5 bar or 6 to 8 MPa). This requires a large amount of energy.
The layers of a membrane
The membrane assembly consists of a pressure vessel with a membrane that allows feed water to be pressed against it. The membrane must be strong enough to withstand whatever pressure is applied against it. RO membranes are made in a variety of configurations, with the two most common configurations being spiral-wound and hollow-fiber.
Remineralization and pH adjustment
The desalinated water is very corrosive and is “stabilized” to protect downstream pipelines and storages, usually by adding lime or caustic to prevent corrosion of concrete lined surfaces. Liming material is used to adjust pH between 6.8 and 8.1 to meet the potable water specifications, primarily for effective disinfection and for corrosion control.
Post-treatment consists of preparing the water for distribution after filtration. Reverse osmosis is an effective barrier to pathogens, however post-treatment provides secondary protection against compromised membranes and downstream problems. Disinfection by means of UV lamps (sometimes called germicidal or bactericidal) may be used to sterilize pathogens which bypassed the reverse osmosis process. Chlorination or chloramination (chlorine and ammonia) protects against pathogens which may have lodged in the distribution system downstream, such as from new construction, backwash, compromised pipes, etc.
Household reverse osmosis units use a lot of water because they have low back pressure. As a result, they recover only 5 to 15 percent of the water entering the system. The remainder is discharged as waste water. Because waste water carries with it the rejected contaminants, methods to recover this water are not practical for household systems. Waste water is typically connected to the house drains and will add to the load on household septic systems. An RO unit delivering 5 gallons of treated water a day may discharge anywhere between 20 and 90 gallons of waste water a day. For household use, however, and based on consumption of half a gallon per day, this may amount to less than a toilet-flush per day.
Large-scale industrial/municipal systems have a production efficiency of 75% – 80%, or as high as 90%, because they can generate the high pressure needed for more efficient RO filtration. On the other hand, as efficiency of waste water rates increases in commercial operations effective removal rates tend to become reduced, as evidenced by TDS counts.
Reverse Osmosis Removes Minerals
Reverse Osmosis (RO) removesd more than 90-99.99% of all the contaminants including minerals from the drinking water supply. RO removes minerals because they have larger molecules than water. The subject of minerals and RO created controversy and disagreement among water and health professionals. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that most of healthy minerals needed by the human body come from food or dietary supplementary sources and not from drinking tap water. In addition, some minerals found in water can be harmful to human health. The evidence is strong that calcium and magnesium are essential elements for human body. However, this is not to suggest that we should make up this deficiency through water consumption. Tap water presents a variety of inorganic minerals which human body has difficulty absorbing. Their presence is suspect in a wide array of degenerative diseases, such as hardening of the arteries, arthritis, kidney stones, gall stones, glaucoma, cataracts, hearing loss, emphysema, diabetes, and obesity. What minerals are available, especially in “hard” tap water, are poorly absorbed, or rejected by cellular tissue sites, and, if not evacuated, their presence may cause arterial obstruction, and internal damage (Dennison, 193; Muehling, 1994; Banik, 1989).
A number of studies have looked at the long term health effects of drinking demineralized water. However, demineralized water can be remineralized, and this process has been done in instances when processing demineralized water for consumption. Dasani water uses this process.
Water filtered or treated by RO is generally pure, clean, and healthy. RO treatment is currently the only technology that can remove emerging contaminants (prescription drugs and perchlorate) and some others (i.e., arsenic, cyanide, and fluoride) that are difficult to remove by other methods. Consumers should not be concerned about the removal of minerals by RO system. WHO (2009) and WQA (2011) pointed out, that the human body obtains most minerals from food or supplements, not from drinking water.
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With a single ‘before and after’ test, this handy device effectively demonstrates how your RO or distillation system eliminates harmful dissolved solids. It will also service test systems, including membrane evaluation programs.
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Since temperature compensation is at the heart of accurate water measurement, all Myron L Monitor/controllers feature a highly refined and precise TC circuit. This feature perfectly matches the water temperature coefficient as it changes. All models corrected to 25′C. The TC may be disabled to conform with USP requirements.
Built-in electronic calibration allows for fast quality checks without standard solutions. (Note: for maximum system accuracy standard solutions are recommended).
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Nonvolatile memory of up to 100 readings for stored data protection
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Low battery indicator
(Includes instrument with case and solutions)