How Do Reverse Osmosis Systems Work?

How Do Reverse Osmosis Systems Work?

February 17, 2023

A reverse osmosis system removes contaminants from water when pressure forces unfiltered water through a semipermeable membrane. The contaminated water flows from the more concentrated side of the membrane to the less concentrated side to produce clean, fresh water for drinking. This process is used for a number of purposes, from purifying rainwater to recycling chemicals. It also has applications in industries, such as maple syrup production where it separates the water in sap from the sugary concentrate to reduce energy consumption. 


Reverse Osmosis systems rely on pressure to push the water through the RO membrane, so it’s important to make sure the pressure is high enough. This can be done by adding a booster pump. A booster pump increases the water production rate, boosts the storage volume of your pressure tank, and improves the faucet flow. However, it can also increase feed pressure to 100 PSI (which is not a good thing) so be careful when using this option. In addition to increasing pressure, booster pumps can help prevent the membrane from scaling by preventing certain dissolved salts from passing through the membrane as mineral scale. Scaling can negatively impact the performance of the membrane by causing higher pressure drop, lower permeate flow, and reduced water quality. 


Water treatment processes use membrane filtration to clean unfiltered water. Membranes act like a screen door, allowing air molecules to pass through but preventing larger particles and ions from entering. The membranes used in reverse osmosis systems must be able to withstand high pressure. The most common membranes are made from cellulose acetate, cellulose triacetate, or aromatic polyamide resins. 


Reverse osmosis systems typically include a sediment filter and carbon filter. These filters help prevent sediment and chlorine from clogging the RO membrane, which could cause it to fail prematurely. Activated carbon is another type of filter, made from a special form of charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to increase its surface area, used in reverse osmosis systems. Activated carbon has a large surface area and can attract and trap many kinds of particles, reducing the number of contaminant-laden molecules in your water. In fact, one gram of activated carbon can have an estimated 32,000 foot2 surface area. 


When using a reverse osmosis system, it’s important to store the water. If it’s not stored, the water could get contaminated and potentially cause problems for your plumbing system. The first step is to drain the RO unit and storage tank completely. This will depressurize the tank and also make sure that no water is coming into your home from the system. You can also install a storage tank booster pump to increase the incoming feed pressure, which will allow your system to produce water faster and waste less. This will also allow your storage tank to hold more water before shutting off, which can save you money in the long run. 

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