History of Reverse Osmosis

By | March 14, 2017

Reverse Osmosis system is a popular water filter system being adopted by numerous households and businesses nowadays. Indeed, having water filters for home is a necessity.  It has evolved to produce purified water that is being used in many other products in the global market. If you’re ever wondering why you’ve never heard of it yet, the answer is that it’s not a relatively old technology compared to other products we have at home.

Let’s have a quick history lesson as to how reverse osmosis came to be.

The Discovery of Osmosis

Naturally occurring osmosis was discovered way back in 1748 by a French clergyman and physicist who went by the name of Jean-Antoine Nollet. He argued that a solvent – water in this case – can be capable of passing through a semi-permeable membrane through what we now call “Osmosis.” He demonstrated this by replicating the process with the help of a pig’s bladder as a semi-permeable membrane, and two solutions with uneven concentration.  After that, the topic all but disappeared, until the late 1940s.

As the need required, people began to figure out a way to turn salty sea water into pure, potable drinking water. It was during the Kennedy administration that this shortage in water supply in the United States was addressed, and a renewed interest in the 200-year old discovery of osmosis took root.

The Birth of Reverse Osmosis

It took the researchers quite some time before they found a way to finally make good use of Nollet’s discovery to solve their water supply shortage. In 1959, Sidney Loeb and Snirivasa Sourirajan, two researchers who hailed from UCLA, turned cellulose acetate polymer into a fully functioning synthetic reverse osmosis membrane. This was such a monumental discovery in the area of reverse osmosis, since the membrane functioned like a filter which allowed water to pass through, but not salt and TDS. At a decent rate, fresh, potable water was produced. Not only that, but the membrane proved to be durable enough to perform its task under normal water pressure and standard operating conditions. This new technology worked in the opposite way that normal osmosis does, hence the name “Reverse Osmosis.”

The US soon acknowledged the importance of this discovery, and in 1965, the first commercial RO water system was built in Coalinga, California, and this staggering program of desalinating sea water began to attract many engineers and governments around the globe. This was led by Sidney Loeb, one of the parents of reverse osmosis, and Joseph W. McCutchan. After that, many more programs as well as water filtration systems followed suit, and more advancement in the field sprung up.

Today, we are reaping the benefits from the hard work of these geniuses who laboured to convert sea water and brackish water into clear, potable drinking water, which by the way, is also being used in the production of many different processes, products and services around the world. With the massive desertification that is happening, and more factories emitting toxic wastes into the environment, freshwater sources are getting scarcer, thus the need for efficient water filter systems. Many of us might not be aware of the growing need for a reverse osmosis water filter here in UK, but with the health threats that various pollutants in the environment pose, it will not hurt to avail yourself of RO unit.

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