Reverse Osmosis (RO) units are usually installed as point-of-use (POU) systems. They are generally placed at the kitchen faucet and used to purify water intended for drinking and cooking purposes only.
RO IS BASED ON the process of osmosis. Osmosis is the selective movement of water from one side of a membrane to the other. Pressure is applied to the contaminated water, forcing water through the membrane. Because contaminants can not move with the water across the membrane, only purer water passes through the membrane. The process splits the liquid flow into a purified stream of liquid which has passed through the membrane (permeate) and a concentrated stream of liquid which has passed over the surface of the membrane (concentrate).
BASIC COMPONENTS of an RO system should include a pre-filter to remove fouling agents such as rust and lime; an RO module containing the membrane; an activated carbon post-filter to remove residual taste, odor and some compounds from the purified water; a storage tank; and various valves, including a shut-off valve that stops the water. There are enhanced RO systems available with pressure pumps and up to 10 filter stages.
RO is effective at filtering or reducing:
Membrane selection affects performance and is based on various water characteristics such as acidity, hardness, total dissolved solids and chlorine content. Another characteristic influencing an RO system's performance is water pressure. The higher the water pressure, the better the rejection of pollutants and the more purified the water. Water pressures vary significantly changing the efficiency of the unit. Water production and rejection rates in most units decrease as the storage tank fills, since this increases pressure on the purified water side of the membrane. For maximum efficiency the storage tank should be emptied daily.
The amount of water passing through the membrane is referred to as flux and is generally expressed in gallons per square foot of membrane per day (GFD). Membranes have a maximum recommended flux, the higher the flux the more water is produced. Contaminant rejection by the membrane remains constant and therefore the more water that passes through the membrane the higher the quality of permeate water. Typical water pressure in homes may not be adequate for efficient RO treatment, however, booster pumps can be added. Doubling the pressure across a membrane more than doubles the output flow rate of purified water.
The production rate of purified water is also influenced by temperature. The higher the water temperature, the better the production rate. A drop in temperature from 75 degrees to 45 degrees Fahrenheit virtually cuts the production of purified water in half.
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