Reverse osmosis was introduced during the 1950s. It was promoted as an effective and safe process of purifying water as well as removing salts and many more impurities so that taste, color, and properties of the liquid could be further improved for greater potability. It is not surprising that within a span of just several decades, reverse osmosis for water purification has picked up so well that it is widely used in more than 100 countries now as a means for producing safer and more potable drinking water for growing population. The desalination (a reverse osmosis technique) market even grew to emerge as an $8 billion global industry.
These days, it is noteworthy that reverse osmosis is increasingly being used even in industrial applications. This is logical and practical due to the technique’s cost efficiency and effectiveness. Currently, the process is widely used to treat industrial waste water, boiler feed water, and processed water. In the pharmaceutical industry, reverse osmosis is used to process grade water, which in turn is used for varied pharmaceutical applications. Food and beverage industry uses it to process beverages and food products for quality and safety purposes.
Even the semiconductor and metal finishing sectors are widely using reverse osmosis. In the semiconductor industry, the process is included as a standard component of treatment for the production of ultrapure water for different uses. In metal finishing, reverse osmosis systems are applied to metal finishing operations, which include production of several types of zinc, copper, and nickel.
The power generation industry is currently one of the heaviest users of reverse osmosis technology. Across the world, it is estimated that the power generation industry is attributing up to 30% of industrial water sales to the process. Electric power facilities that use gas, oil, coal and nuclear power produce steam that runs turbines. Impurities in steam could cause massive problems. How do the businesses purify water for steaming? You bet it right, through reverse osmosis.
Reverse osmosis could also be an industry in itself. In many countries, many businesses are established to produce and sell purified and safe potable water for drinking and cooking. Many facilities do just that. This is most common in desert nations in the Middle East and North Africa. In other parts of the world, reverse osmosis water purification businesses are also thriving due to growing population and industrialization, which further depletes natural potable water supplies.
Are there cost benefits? Perhaps, one of the reasons why many industries are now using the process is the cost advantage. Reverse osmosis units and membranes used are getting more and more affordable. This could be because supplies are faster growing than the already expanding demand. It is not surprising because many businesses are getting into manufacturing and designing reverse osmosis facilities, devices, and products. In the past, equipments for the process are very expensive. Now, they are more affordable, and the prices are further declining.
It is harder to imagine a world that is not using reverse osmosis is a water purification and industrial process. In the coming years, it is expected that the use and advantage of reverse osmosis would further expand to get more industries and sectors involved. By that time, the process would hopefully become more common so that even most households would own reverse osmosis devices. No water shortage would ever bother the world again.