History of Reverse Osmosis in 500 words
Osmosis is a natural process that occurs in our bodies every day. It has been occurring in nature for thousands of years. It was discovered scientifically for the first time in 1748 by Jean-Antoine Nollet, a French clergyman and physicist. Using a pig's bladder as a membrane, Nollet was able to reproduce the osmotic process, demonstrating that solvent molecules from low solute water could pass through the bladder wall into a larger solute concentration formed of alcohol. He demonstrated that a solvent could effectively pass through a semi-permeable membrane using natural osmotic pressure, and that the solvent would continue to enter through the cell membrane until dynamic equilibrium was attained on both sides of the bladder. For the following 200 years, the study of osmosis would all but vanish, until late in the 1940s, when scholars from leading American colleges began to re-examine the topic.
This revived interest stemmed from a desire to find a technique to filter or desalinate sea water, which was a big goal by the Kennedy administration to assist create solutions to the country's water shortages. Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourirajan, two UCLA researchers, succeeded in creating a functioning synthetic RO membrane from cellulose acetate polymer in 1959. In their experiments, they pushed a body of high-solute water through an artificial membrane that worked as a filter, allowing only water molecules to pass through while rejecting NaCl and TDS. The membrane was actually durable and could operate under typical water pressure and operating circumstances, allowing fresh water to pass through at a reasonable flow rate to generate filtered, drinkable water. Because this new method worked in the opposite direction of the natural osmotic process, it was quickly dubbed reverse osmosis.
With the cooperation and leadership of Joseph W. McCutchan and Sidney Loeb, the world's first commercial RO plant was built in Coalinga, California, and its new initiative grabbed the attention of engineers and governments from all over the world in 1965. This magnificent ideal, that humanity will one day be able to desalinate sea water on a big scale and at a reasonable cost, was finally becoming a reality. As additional pilot programmes popped up in places like La Jolla and Firebaugh, California, to test various types of brackish and seawater, the progress accelerated. Membrane technology would become more relevant and economical as a result of these and other contributors' advances and discoveries, and many heavy industries would benefit from clean water.
Reverse osmosis and membrane filtering elements are already utilised in hundreds of processes and applications all over the world, and the sector is likely to continue to grow at a rapid pace in the foreseeable future. Large reverse osmosis processing plants now provide much of the clean water consumed by some towns and even small countries, as natural clean water sources become more limited and the global trend of desertification continues. Most people aren't aware of it, but clean water may soon become one of the most valuable commodities on the world, which is why RO technology is one of humanity's greatest scientific achievements.