Reverse Osmosis


Water Treatment Glossary of Terms
Anion – A negatively charged ion. Auto flush – An automatic temporary increase in the reject flow. This helps prevent membrane fouling. Calcium – A metallic element often found in water, usually as dissolved calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Soluble in water, it causes hardness and subsequent scaling. Carbon – A nonmetallic element that occurs in many inorganic and in all organic compounds. Is capable of chemical self-bonding to form an enormous number of important molecules. Cation – A positively charged ion.

Chlorine – An element used to kill micro-organisms in water. At room temperature and atmospheric pressure it is a greenish yellow gas.
Conductivity – The reciprocal of resistivity, it is a measure of the ability to conduct an electric current. Since ionized impurities increase the conductivity of water, it is also an accurate measure of ionic purity. Conductivity is normally expressed as microsiemens/cm, or micromhos/cm.
Pavan Mandapaka


colloidal masses or dense bacterial growth form a compacted crust on membrane or filter surfaces which blocks further flow. and is usually expressed in parts-per-million by weight. High hardness can cause boiler or pipe scale and failure of reverse osmosis membranes.Reverse Osmosis Glossary of Terms Dissolved Solids – Also referred to as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). flux rates are determined by the feed water SDI. Hardness – Concentration of calcium and magnesium salts in water. Pavan Mandapaka 3 . Hardness is a term originally referring to the soap-consuming power of water. Fouling – When gelatinous coatings. Flux – The number of gallons of permeate produced per square foot of membrane area per day (GFD). As such it is sometimes also taken to include iron and manganese. Generally. it is the amount of nonvolatile matter dissolved in a water sample.

rejecting even dissolved ions in water. 4  Ion – An atom or group of atoms with an electrical charge that is positive (cation) or negative (anion) as a result of having lost or gained electrons. also remove molecules larger than a specified molecular weight.  Membrane – Filtration membranes are thin polymer films that are permeable to water and other fluids. Microporous membrane filters have measurable pore structures which physically remove particles or microorganisms larger than pore size.Contd…. and very little else. Pavan Mandapaka . Reverse osmosis membranes are permeable to water molecules. (sometimes called molecular sieves). Ultrafiltration membranes.

A solution with a pH lower than 7 is acidic. If its pH is higher than 7 it is alkaline. The same as milligrams per liter. The formula for calculating percent rejection is 100 X (feed – product)/feed Permeate – In reverse osmosis. Osmosis – The diffusion of a solvent through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a more concentrated solution. The recovery that the membranes operate at is called internal or membrane recovery. the reciprocal of ohm (resistance). the ratio of pure water output to feed water input. Pavan Mandapaka 5 . the water that diffuses through the membrane. PPM – Parts per million. The most common measure of dissolved ionized impurities in water. Percent Recovery – In reverse osmosis. the ratio of impurities removed to total impurities in the incoming feed water. pH – The negative log of the hydrogen-ion concentration. Percent Rejection – In reverse osmosis. thereby becoming purified water. The recover that the RO machine operates at is called overall or machine recovery.Contd… Mho – Unit of measurement for conductance. Micromho – A measure of conductance equal to one millionth of a mho.

those impurities not able to permeate the membrane are said to be rejected (removed). an ionic or electrovalent crystalline compound. leaving the solute (impurities) behind. It consists mainly of calcium carbonate. Scale – The mineral deposits that can coat the insides of boiler or the surfaces of RO membranes. water is forced out of a concentrated solution. which precipitates out of solution under certain conditions of pH. water diffuses through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a more concentrated solution. The flow of water can be reversed with an opposing pressure that exceeds osmotic pressure. They are flushed away in the reject (waste) stream. Reverse Osmosis – The reversal of osmosis to purify water. Pavan Mandapaka 6 . alkalinity and hardness. Reject – In reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration. With Reverse Osmosis. Salt – Any of numerous compounds that result from replacement of part or all of the hydrogen of an acid by a metal or a radical acting like a metal.Contd… Psig – Pounds per square inch of gauge pressure. In osmosis. or pressure above atmospheric pressure.

expressed in ohms-cm. Specific Conductance – The reciprocal of specific resistance. usually expressed in microsiemens/cm. Pavan Mandapaka 7 . Suspended Solids – Undissolved solids that can be removed by filtration.Contd… Semipermeable – Membranes that do not have measurable pores. identical to micromhos/cm. It is a measure of the Total Ionized Solids concentration. Determined by a filter paper before and after filtration of a water sample. Viscosity – The tendency of a fluid to resist flowing as a result of molecular attraction (cohesion). Specific Resistance – Resistance of a one-centimeter cube of water to the passage of electricity under standard conditions. Turbidity – A suspension of fine particles that obscures light rays but requires many days for sedimentation because of small particle size. but through which smaller molecules can pass.

Pavan Mandapaka 8 . Water will typically be present on both sides of the membrane.How Reverse Osmosis Works A semi permeable membrane. osmotic pressure (seen in the diagram below as the pressure created by the difference in water levels) will counter the diffusion process exactly. Eventually. but also prevent many other contaminants from passing by trapping them. and what it prevents from passing. These membranes in general pass water very easily because of its small molecular size. is selective about what it allows to pass through. Since the water with the less concentrated solution seeks to dilute the more concentrated solution. with each side having a different concentration of dissolved minerals. like the membrane of a cell wall or a bladder. and an equilibrium will form. water will pass through the membrane from the lower concentration side to the greater concentration side.

High water pressure on the source side is used to "reverse" the natural osmotic process. The specific process through which this occurs is called ion exclusion. with the semi-permeable membrane still permitting the passage of water while rejecting most of the other contaminants. Pavan Mandapaka 9 . in which a concentration of ions at the membrane surface from a barrier that allows other water molecules to pass through while excluding other substances.The process of reverse osmosis forces water with a greater concentration of contaminants (the source water) into a tank containing water with an extremely low concentration of contaminants (the processed water).

Inside A RO Membrane Water enters the RO membrane under pressure and travels from the feed end to the reject end. The contaminants that were previously in the product water exit the membrane in the reject water. This water is called the RO product water. Feed Water Water RO Membrane Reject Product Water Pavan Mandapaka 10 . Some of this feed water passes through the membrane and becomes purified.

These leaves are then rolled around a central product collection tube.Spiral Wound Membrane Element Several layers of membrane material are sandwiched between spacer material to form leaves with a feed / reject channel and a product channel. This assembly is referred to as a spiral wound membrane element. Pavan Mandapaka 11 .

Brine Seal Reject Feed Water RO Membrane Element Product Pressure Vessel Pavan Mandapaka 12 . This is called a brine seal. Membranes should always be installed with the brine seal on the feed end of the vessel. A seal between the outside of the membrane and the inside of the pressure vessel prevents the feed water from flowing between the membrane and pressure vessel.The spiral wound membrane element is installed in a pressure vessel.

Basic RO Process Flow Diagram RO Membrane(s) Feed Water Pump Product Water Control Valve Pavan Mandapaka 13 Reject to Drain .

5% less water for each degree F. Higher operating pressures can be used to compensate for colder water temperatures.Factors That Effect the Operation of RO Systems Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of the feed water • The natural osmotic pressure of the feed water is approximately 1 psi for every 100 ppm. Raising the feed pressure produces more product water while lowering the pressure produces less product water. This means that if the feed water TDS is 500 ppm it will take more than 5 psi of pressure just to begin the reverse osmosis process. The RO process occurs slower with cold water. 14 Pavan Mandapaka . Feed water temperature • Reverse osmosis is temperature dependent. Feed water pressure • Reverse osmosis is pressure dependent. All RO membranes are rated with a feed water temperature of 77° F.5% more pressure or the membrane will produce approximately 1. For feed water colder than 77° F. it will take approximately 1.

2. 3. How much product water going to be produced? This is based on the customers needs and the type of RO unit installed.Reverse Osmosis System Operation In order to order to operate a RO system correctly. If the unit has a pump throttling valve. then what is the correct internal (membrane) recovery? This depends on the number of membranes and the array they are installed in. Pavan Mandapaka 15 . and type of RO unit installed. feed water analysis. This is based on the customers expectations. What overall recovery is the unit going to run at. you need to know several things! 1.

The most common forms of pretreatment are: • Media Filter . Proper pretreatment is essential for the reliable operation of any RO system.Used to remove chlorine and organics from the feed water.Used to remove calcium and magnesium from the feed water in order to prevent hardness scaling.Used to remove large suspended solids (sediment) from the feed water. Backwashing the media removes the trapped particles.RO Pretreatment The RO feed water must be pretreated in order to prevent membrane damage and/or fouling. Softening is the preferred method of controlling hardness scale. Pretreatment requirements vary depending on the nature of the feed water. The LSI should be zero or negative throughout the unit unless approved antiscalants are used. Free chlorine will cause rapid irreversible damage to most membranes. Backwash can be initiated by time or differential pressure. The potential for hardness scaling is predicted by the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI). 16 Pavan Mandapaka . Water Softener . • • Carbon Filter .

Special media filters and/or chemical treatment is commonly used. • • Pavan Mandapaka 17 . Iron & Manganese . or bisulfite into the feed water or to adjust the feed water pH. The cartridge(s) should be replaced when the pressure drop across the housing increases 5 .RO Pretreatment • Chemical Injection .10 psig over the clean cartridge pressure drop.1 ppm).Used to remove smaller suspended solids and trap any particles that may be generated by the other pretreatment. An SDI of five (5) or less is specified by membrane manufacturers and three (3) or less is recommended.These foulants should be completely removed (less than 0. Prefilter Cartridge . The effect of suspended solids is measured by the silt density index (SDI) test. coagulant.Typically used to feed antiscalant.

The pH is a measurement that indicatics weather something is acidic or basic. Additionally. Silica forms a coating on membrane surfaces when the concentration exceeds its solubility. Acids have a pH value less than 7 while bases have a pH value greater than 7.Reported on the analysis as SiO2. Pavan Mandapaka 18 . the solubility is highly pH and temperature dependent. Silica fouling can be prevented with chemical injection and/or reducing the recovery. • Silica . The pH is often lowered to reduce the scaling potential (LSI) of the water.RO Pretreatment • pH .

Pavan Mandapaka 19 . The symptom of fouling is low product flow and /or higher than normal feed pressure. 2. Operating the membranes at a flux rate that is too high.RO Membrane Fouling Membrane fouling occurs when small particulate matter covers the membrane surface. 3. The primary causes of membrane fouling are: 1. Inadequate or improper pretreatment. Fouled membranes can usually be cleaned if they have not lost more than 15% of their production. Operating the unit with a recovery that is too high.

Inadequate or improper pretreatment. Scaled membranes can usually be cleaned if they have not lost more than 15% of their production. The symptoms of scaling are the same as fouling. low product flow and /or higher than normal feed pressure. The primary causes of membrane scaling are: 1.RO Membrane Scaling Membrane scaling occurs when the dissolved solids in the feed water are concentrated beyond their solubility. 2. Pavan Mandapaka 20 . Operating the unit with a recovery that is too high.

Freezing – Physically damages the membrane which causes it to loose percent rejection.Other Membrane Problems Chlorine attack – Oxidizes the membrane which causes it to loose percent rejection. Back pressure – Physically damages the membrane which causes it to loose percent rejection. Bad product o-ring – Allows feed water to bypass the membrane which results in a loss of percent rejection. Pavan Mandapaka 21 .

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