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WHAT IS REVERSE OSMOSIS ?

 If you’re exploring water purification methods you might question, “What is reverse osmosis?” This article explores reverse osmosis as well as other methods of purifying water. What is reverse osmosis and how does it compare with these other water purification methods?

Reverse osmosis is the most efficient, economical and convenient method to purify water for human consumption.
Reverse osmosis (RO) forces water through a semi-permeable membrane to remove most contaminants
that are as small as, or smaller, than water molecules.

The term used by the water industry for reverse osmosis is Hyper-filtration.

Reverse osmosis is the most recently-developed technology for water purification. It was refined by the U.S. Government
 in the 1950’s as a way of transforming sea water into potable drinking water. Reverse osmosis water is used by
companies that bottle water as well as industries that require ultra-pure water for their manufacturing processes.

This technology is now available to homeowners and office managers who wish to purify their tap water
for drinking, preparing beverages and cooking.


Home, Office and Commercial Applications

Whether for home, office or commercial application, you will find the best reverse osmosis system at APEC Water.
See what makes them the best here.

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Reverse Osmosis Process

Hydraulic pressure forces incoming water through a semi-permeable membrane. In a home or office system, the source
of the hydraulic pressure is usually the pressure of the water entering the building. In commercial or industrial
applications hydraulic pressure is applied by pumping the water.

The semi-permeable membrane is a man-made membrane that contains pores as small as 0.0001 microns, or 0.000000004 inches.
(As a point of reference, a human red blood cell is 5 microns across and a human hair is 75 microns.)
Most contaminants measuring 0.0001 microns or smaller remain on the input side of the membrane.
However, some particles pass through the semi-permeable membrane.
Therefore, not all contaminants are removed by RO.



Impurities Removed by Reverse Osmosis

The reverse osmosis process removes sediment such as silt, sand and dirt; heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury;
many organic chemicals such as formaldehyde, ethanol, methanol and isopropanol; pesticides;
microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and cysts; radioactivity; and more.

The resulting purified water is virtually free of unwanted contaminants.
Find a more complete listing of contaminants removed by RO here.



Why is it called Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis is the reverse of the osmosis process that occurs naturally in our environment. When very salty water is separated
from less salty water (diluent) by a semi-permeable membrane, the diluent water naturally travels through the membrane attempting
to dilute the saltier water until the water on both sides of the membrane are equal in salt content.

An example of osmosis is the wrinkling of our skin after we’ve been submersed in water for an extended period of time.
The water around us has entered our skin through osmosis. In reverse osmosis, we unnaturally force the more
contaminated water through the membrane in a reverse direction
that is opposite to that which would occur in nature.



Other Water Purification Methods 

      In addition to reverse osmosis, more than 25 ways to purify water are currently available.


Distillation – Water is heated in one vessel until it boils. The resulting water vapor is transferred to a second vessel where it is condensed
and stored. Distillation is expensive, slow and takes up space. Not appropriate for home use.

Ion Exchange – Used primarily for softening or deionization, water is moved through a bed of ion-exchange resin where ions from theresin
 are exchanged for ions in the water to be treated. Ion exchange may be required to pre-condition tap water
before processing with reverse osmosis.

Carbon Absorption – Carbon absorption effectively removes offensive taste and odor from water, chlorine, and numerous chemicals such
as trichloroethylene, pesticides and some gases.

Filtration – Methods of water filtration include screen, surface and depth filters. None of these filters are capable of removing dangerous, sometimes cancer-causing dissolved inorganic contaminants from water. However, these are important in the pre-conditioning of water
prior to reverse osmosis to prevent the RO semi-permeable membrane from overloading with contaminants.

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation – UV radiation provides germicidal processing of water, but UV radiation, by itself, will not remove sediment,
colloids or ions. However, UV radiation makes an excellent companion to RO to ensure the purest possible water.

A more detailed explanation of these methods can be found at APEC Water.


Reverse Osmosis System

Reverse osmosis can remove a significant number of, but not all, contaminants from water. It’s most effective when used in a system
with other filtration methods. They can remove certain impurities from water more effectively than reverse osmosis. For example,
some contaminants smaller than water molecules will pass through the RO membrane, but may be rejected by ion exchange or
carbon absorption. Chlorine, found in many municipal water supplies, will damage most RO membranes used in home or office
systems, but chlorine is readily removed from water by carbon absorption. The small pores in the RO semi-permeable
membrane will quickly clog unless pre-filters remove the bulk of the larger particles such as sand, silt and sediment.


This article answers the question, “What is reverse osmosis?” It has discussed the differences and interactions between RO and
other purification methods. What is reverse osmosis and is it the right water purification method for your water purification needs?

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