The term reverse osmosis refers to a method or system of water purification. When in use, reverse osmosis forces water that has a higher concentration of contaminants, known as the source water, into a tank that contains water with a very low level of contaminants, known as the processed water. High water pressure on the source water side reverses the natural osmotic process, essentially allowing pure water to pass through while holding back contaminants. A semi-permeable membrane is used to separate the different concentrations of water, separating undesirable contaminants from pure water. The key element in the reverse osmosis process that distinguishes it from regular osmosis is the water being placed under pressure while it's on one side of the membrane. Initially, pig bladders were used as the semi-permeable membrane in the process, but as time and technologies advanced, more effective synthetic substances were developed that reject contaminants completely.
Reverse osmosis is used in several different water products, in virtually any situation where pure water is needed. Drinking water is the obvious application for reverse osmosis, but many other industries require the water they use to be free and clear of contaminants, as well. Some of these industries include humidification, ice making, laboratory applications, photography, kidney dialysis, pharmaceutical production, cosmetics, animal feed and wastewater treatment. Reverse osmosis is available in large, commercial water purification systems and smaller systems you might use in your own kitchen. The process of reverse osmosis is also very beneficial in areas of the world where clean drinking water is at a premium and diseases are common.
A quality reverse osmosis system is able to remove large amounts of inorganic chemicals from water, including salts, minerals and metals. Microorganisms like cryptosporidium and giardia can be excluded, as can most inorganic contaminants. Some of the metals and minerals that reverse osmosis successfully treats include arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, barium, chloride, chromium, magnesium, fluoride, copper, lead, iron, nitrate, magnesium, selenium, silver and zinc. With all of the proper elements in place, reverse osmosis will reject bacteria, salts, sugars, heavy metals, dyes, proteins, chlorine and all of their related by-products. The bigger the particle, and the bigger the charge in each dissolved ion, the greater the chance it will be rejected by the reverse osmosis process.
In typical North American households, chlorine and fluoride are two elements of the municipal drinking water that many people want removed. Setting up a reverse osmosis system in the kitchen or some other part of the house helps ensure your drinking water will be free from chlorine and fluoride. This saves you money in the long run because you can stop buying bottled water, and just drink freely what flows from your taps.
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