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Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a pressure-driven membrane process used for purification of water. In all pressure-driven membrane processes, water passes through the membranes more easily than the contaminants that are being removed. However, not all of the water supplied to an RO membrane passes through the membrane. The two water streams of differing water quality are produced in the RO process:
Stream 1: The water stream that passes through the membrane is purified and is referred to as permeate.
Stream 2: As the feed water stream passes along the membrane and loses water to the permeate stream, the concentration of contaminants on the feed water side increases. For this reason, the feed stream quality declines along the membrane and is often referred to as concentrate when it exits the membranes.
The membranes used in RO are generally composed of a non-porous polymeric film underlain by porous support layers. The openings in this polymeric film are very small, which allows RO the unique ability to remove most dissolved solids from water. Specifically, RO is capable of rejecting viruses, bacteria, salts, sugars, proteins, particles, dyes, heavy metals, dissolved organics and other contaminants that are dissolved in water.