Reverse osmosis (RO) is a crucial water purification technology that is widely used in various industries. The Osmosis phenomenon was first observed by Jean-Antoine Nollet in 1748, but it was the University of California, Los Angeles, that pioneered the application of this method for water purification in 1950. As of 2001, 15,200 water distillation plants in the US have adopted reverse osmosis as a vital component of their purification processes.

Since its commercial inception, RO has been harnessed for both domestic and industrial water purification endeavors. Industrial utilization of reverse osmosis primarily revolves around expunging dissolved contaminants from water sources. This article serves as an introductory discourse on the principles of reverse osmosis (RO) while delving deeper into its applications.

Industrial Applications of Reverse Osmosis

What is reverse osmosis?

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a method of purifying water that relies on a semi-permeable membrane to eliminate impurities. During this process, water is pushed through the membrane, enabling water molecules to pass through while preventing larger molecules and contaminants like minerals, salts, bacteria, and viruses from passing. By applying pressure to the water, it is forced through the membrane, resulting in purified water on one side and a concentrated solution of impurities, referred to as brine or reject water, on the other side.

Unlike other filtration methods utilizing low-pressure systems, reverse osmosis employs a high-pressure pump to forcefully propel water through the membranes, resulting in superior removal of impurities. Once these contaminants are eliminated, the quality and purity of the water supply are significantly enhanced. It is commonly used in water filtration systems, as well as in industries such as food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and desalination.

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a method of purifying water

How does a reverse osmosis system work?

A reverse osmosis (RO) system uses pressure to force water molecules through a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane has tiny pores that allow only water molecules to pass through while blocking larger contaminants such as dissolved salts, minerals, and other impurities.

Stages of RO systems

Stages of RO systems

A typical reverse osmosis (RO) system consists of several stages to effectively purify water. The stages may vary depending on the specific system, but here are the common stages of a RO system:

1. Pre-filtration: The incoming water passes through a pre-filter to remove larger particles, sediment, and other impurities that could potentially damage the RO membrane. This pre-filtration stage helps protect the membrane and ensures better performance.

2. Pressurization: The pre-filtered water is then pressurized using a pump to create the necessary force to push it through the RO membrane. This pressure is essential for the separation process to occur effectively.

3. Separation: Pressurized water is channeled into the RO membrane, a semi-permeable membrane containing extremely small pores. These pores are sized to permit water molecules to pass while effectively blocking larger molecules and contaminants. This mechanism leads to impurities being captured on one side of the membrane, allowing purified water to flow through to the other side.

4. Product and Reject Water: As the water passes through the membrane, it separates into two streams: purified water and concentrate or reject water. The purified water, now free from most impurities, is collected for use, while the concentrate, containing the trapped impurities, is flushed away.

5. Post-filtration: In some RO systems, the purified water may pass through additional post-filters to further enhance its quality by removing any remaining contaminants and improving taste.

6. Storage and Distribution: Finally, the purified water is stored in a reservoir or tank before being distributed for consumption or use. Some RO systems also incorporate additional features such as re-mineralization to improve the taste and quality of the purified water.

Reverse osmosis system benefits

Reverse osmosis Environmental benefits

Implementing reverse osmosis (RO) in industrial processes offers numerous benefits, making it one of the best water filtration systems available. Some of the advantages of utilizing RO include:

  • Environmental benefits
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Enhanced health and safety measures
  • Ease of maintenance.

Reverse osmosis (RO) is widely recognized as an eco-friendly solution for industrial wastewater treatment, as it effectively captures impurities and enables proper disposal of pollutants.

One of the major advantages of RO is that it eliminates the need for harmful chemicals, resulting in less hazardous wastewater compared to alternative filtration processes that rely on chemical usage. Additionally, as the price of acid and caustic solutions utilized in other methods continues to rise, RO offers a cost-effective alternative with decreasing costs of RO membrane elements.

The primary cost associated with RO is electricity, but modern water filtration systems are designed to consume minimal energy, resulting in relatively low operating costs.

By eliminating the need for hazardous chemicals, implementing RO offers significant health and safety benefits. The use of traditional resin-based ion exchange systems, which involve highly dangerous acids and alkalis, poses a threat to those handling them. Implementing RO minimizes the risk of on-site chemical storage, ensuring a safer working environment.

RO systems are self-contained units that require minimal operator interaction. They have self-cleaning capabilities and only require regular monitoring.

The lifespan of RO membranes is typically around 2-3 years, depending on various factors such as water quality and quantity being fed into the system.

What Industries Can RO Be Used In?

Reverse osmosis (RO) is widely used in various industries for water purification and contaminant removal. Here are some key applications of reverse osmosis in industry:

Municipal Water Purification

Reverse osmosis is utilized in municipal water treatment plants to purify drinking water by passing it through a semipermeable membrane under pressure. This process effectively removes impurities, contaminants, and dissolved solids, resulting in clean and safe water for public consumption.

Seawater Desalination

Coastal regions primarily rely on seawater as their main water source, which often contains high levels of salt and contaminants, reaching up to 35,000 mg/L. Industries such as cruise ships, offshore drilling, and marine applications require water with low salinity to prevent equipment damage. High-pressure RO systems aid in seawater desalination and bacterial and chemical contamination reduction.

Seawater Desalination

Brackish Water Desalination

Water with a combination of salt and freshwater, known as brackish water, typically contains dissolved salt concentrations ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 mg/L. In contrast, potable drinking water must maintain salinity levels below 500 mg/L. Reverse osmosis effectively removes nearly all contaminants from brackish water sources.

Industrial Water Purification

Reverse osmosis systems are widely used in industries that require purified water for their processes. The food and beverage industry, pharmaceutical industry, and electronics industry use RO to produce ultrapure water, free from contaminants and impurities. This purified water is used for ingredient mixing, manufacturing processes, laboratory applications, rinsing and cleaning electronic components, and many other industrial purposes.

Spot-Free Rinse

Many industrial processes and equipment cleaning operations require salt-free water to prevent surface damage and scaling. Reverse osmosis systems purify rinsing water, reducing the risk of equipment damage and ensuring spot-free results.

Wastewater Treatment

Reverse osmosis is employed in wastewater treatment plants to remove contaminants, including dissolved solids, organic compounds, and pathogens, from wastewater. The treated water can then be reused for irrigation, industrial processes, or even potable purposes, depending on the level of purification achieved.

Wastewater Treatment

Boiler Feed Water

Industrial boilers are highly susceptible to issues caused by hard water. Elevated temperatures can lead to scaling and diminished thermal transfer efficiency, resulting in increased downtime for cleaning. Treating water with a reverse osmosis system before feeding it into boilers helps prevent scaling and corrosion in the boilers, thereby increasing their efficiency and lifespan.


As industries prioritize water quality and sustainability, the widespread adoption of RO technology is expected to persist, driving innovation and advancements in water treatment methodologies.

Brother Filtration has years of experience in designing and manufacturing customized reverse osmosis (RO) systems for a variety of industries and solutions. Therefore, feel free to contact us anytime with your inquiries.

Have Questions?

Get in Touch

error: Content is protected !!