Uses of Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is used in various processes, notably:

Desalination of water

The most commonly known use of reverse osmosis, most desalination processes use this technology to purify water for drinking needs. Since its first commercial introduction in the early 1970s, reverse osmosis is by far the most popular means (approximately 66%) of seawater desalination due to its relatively low energy consumption.

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Food process now also use reverse osmosis as a means to concentrate food substances. For example, fruit juices are concentrated using reverse osmosis to remove excess water content. This method of concentrating liquid foods is opposed to the use of heat to remove excess water; such heat treatment processes may not be suitable for heat-sensitive substances such as enzymes and proteins found in food substances.

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waste water purification

Countries adopt reverse osmosis as a means to purify wastewater. The water can then be released into water catchments or for industrial use, such as the textile industry.

In 2002, Singapore’s NEWater uses reverse osmosis to treat wastewater before releasing the water into reservoirs and dams. This is part of its plans for a sustainable water supply in Singapore.

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Advantages of Reverse Osmosis Techology

cost Effectiveness

Reverse osmosis has been found to be a cost efficient method. While it does not produce water as purified as distillation, it is highly suitable as cost-saving methods for industries requiring water within that acceptable tolerance range for water purity.

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relatively low cost

Reverse osmosis is a relatively low cost technique, as opposed to other water cleansing/purification techniques such as distillation or ultra filtration. This lowers production costs for industrial processes, and even allows for easy commercialization as water purification products for home use.

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Example of costs involved for Reverse Osmosis

Better tasting

Interestingly, we found consumers who use water purified using reverse osmosis have better tasting food. This could likely be attributed to the lack of impurities present in water used to cook or prepare food.

Limitations of Reverse Osmosis Technology


The small pores in the membranes used in reverse osmosis could be easily clogged by sediments of minerals trapped in the membrane. As seen in the graph below, the effectiveness of reverse osmosis falls over time.

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Consequently, frequent cleaning or replacement of the membrane would be required to allow the reverse osmosis to function effectively and efficiently. This may translate to higher maintenance costs for factories or industries using this technique.

Time consuming process

Because this process uses pressure to ‘push’ water through a membrane, it is generally a time consuming process. This process may therefore not be ideal for filtering large volumes of water, as that would require an unreasonably large facility just to process the water, which is incredibly inefficient.

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