Overview of Reverse Osmosis for Chemical Engineers Part 1, Fundamentals of Membrane Mass Transfer


1 Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, McMaster University

2 Chemical Engineering, McMaster University


Reverse osmosis (RO). has become a standard unit operation in Chemical Engineering. This separation process can be used for a wide variety of applications including: desalination of sea water, treatment of industrial wastes, concentration of food products, and recovery of value materials from solution mixtures. In order to best utilize RO it is necessary to have a fundamental understanding of the process so that the optimum design can be reached. In this first part of a two-part series, the fundamental aspects of the RO process are reviewed, several transport models are summarized and the design equations necessary for scale up are presented. The emphasis is to provide a simple, practical, and yet comprehensive summary of the most relevant information that will be needed by a chemical engineer trying to apply reverse osmosis membranes to specific applications.