Reverse Osmosis Explained in Simpler Terms

Posted by Max Water on 6/1/2014

If you have a degree in chemistry or have been working as a scientist somewhere, you would probably understand some of the terms that are often used to describe how a reverse osmosis water system works. If you are like most of the people in the world, hearing terms like solute and semi-permeable membrane are probably like speaking a foreign language. While the terms can sometimes be complicated, the process that is involved when using this type of system to deal with contaminated water is actually not that difficult to understand.

What is a solute?

In tap water, there are many chemicals and other particles that have been dissolved in the water. To the naked eye, the water may look clear, but it actually has many things besides pure water in it. It can have salt and chemicals such as iodine and chlorine in it. Many of these solids that have been dissolved do not affect the appearance of the water, but they do affect the taste and smell and can be harmful.

A reverse osmosis system is designed to remove these solids that are still in the water. Even though the solids have been dissolved, their remnants are still bigger than the pure water molecules that people want to drink. When the larger solids are removed, a cleaner water is produced.

How do they get removed?

It should be easy to see that removing the unwanted chemicals and other solids makes sense. That is why people want a water purification system. In order to remove them, the first key ingredient that is needed to make reverse osmosis work is water pressure. Water pressure is provided when you turn on the spigot for your tap water.

The second ingredient that is needed to make this work is a membrane that will let small molecules of water pass through. It will not let the larger pieces that are in the tap water go through. They are trapped on the other side of the membrane that is in place. Basically, the membrane acts as a filter for the water.  The large particles that are left behind end up being flushed down the drain. The water that is able to pass through the reverse osmosis unit is cleaner and ready to drink.

What is the best example?

The best example of using this type of purification system is in a process called desalinization. That in simpler terms is removing the salt from water. Even though the salt has been dissolved in the water, it is still larger than the clean water. When the water is pushed through the osmosis filter, the salt is left behind and collected. Since it is technically still in a liquid state, it can be discarded down the drain. This is a process that has been used for more than 60 years and is still the best way to turn salt water into drinking water that there is.

In the end people can use all of the fancy terms they want about the reverse osmosis process. They can try to make it sound more complicated than it really is. For most people all they need to know is that it is the most effective way to filter water and provide people with cleaner drinking water in the end.