The discovery and development of reverse osmosis is one of today’s most useful technological breakthroughs. Since the early 50s, it had served its primary purpose of providing safe purified water where it had not been available before. The following are the many other applications of reverse osmosis.
All over the world, the technology of reverse osmosis in providing safe drinking water in households is now common both for homes and big establishments.
In the U.S. military where it was first developed, R.O.W.P.U.s (Reverse Osmosis Purification Units) produce 12,000 to 60,000 gallons of water for 1,000 to 6,000 soldiers.
The purified water is also safe from NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical agents) after the reverse osmosis process.
In big cities and progressive areas, collected rainwater is purified with reverse osmosis and used for irrigation of landscapes and industrial cooling.
For big power plants, reverse osmosis is used to remove the minerals from water used in the boilers. The water has to be pure and free from minerals that leave deposits on the machinery and cause corrosion and other damages.
In Singapore, the authorities had announced their intention to use reverse osmosis to treat their wastewater before discharging them back into the reservoirs.
Reverse osmosis is used in the concentration (thickening) of food liquids (orange juice, tomato juice) that lose their nutritional values if processed with heat.
It is also used in the dairy industry in the production of whey protein powder and the concentration of milk to reduce shipping and storage costs.
It is already used by the wine industry, although it had been frowned before. Now, reverse osmosis machines are used by many wineries in France, even by well-known companies. The machines were used to concentrate the grape juices, and removing taints as acetic acid, smoke, and the removal of alcohol in some.
In the 70s, maple syrup producers began using reverse osmosis process. They were used to remove excess water from the raw maple sap before boiling. The practice removes around 80% of water, saving them in energy consumption because it reduced boiling time of the syrup.
In places where there is ‘hard water’, enterprising car wash entrepreneurs employ the use of reverse osmosis machines.
Hard water causes water spotting on vehicles. Reverse osmosis removes the heavy minerals in their original water. Reverse osmosis also reduces demands from customers for drying their vehicles which adds costs.
Many reef aquarium keepers are now using reverse osmosis systems to produce water for their artificial mix of seawater. They found that ordinary tap water often contains excessive amounts of chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, and many other chemicals that are bad for the reef environment in their aquariums. Other contaminants such as nitrogen compounds and phosphates lead to excessive algae growth.
Today, reef aquarium owners use the combination of reverse osmosis machines and deionization because of low ownership costs and minimal running costs.
In places where there is limited water, authorities use reverse osmosis technology to desalinate the sea for their drinking water. In the Middle East especially in Saudi Arabia, large reverse osmosis and multistage flash desalination plants are in harness. The energy requirements are large, but they are offset by the fact that these countries are oil-producers.
So far, these are just some of the many applications of reverse osmosis, although there had been other small uses as well using the principle of the process (in hydrogen production, organics removal, etc). It will not be a surprise if more uses will be added to this list.