AIChE Journal Highlight: A Bright Future for RO Water Desalination | AIChE

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AIChE Journal Highlight: A Bright Future for RO Water Desalination


Water scarcity and groundwater contamination have sparked major efforts to preserve and diversify regional water portfolios through water desalination and water reuse. While various approaches exist, reverse osmosis (RO) membrane desalination has emerged as the dominant technology for seawater and brackish water desalination in small- to municipal-scale applications. RO-based desalination makes up 65% of worldwide desalination capacity, followed by multistage flash evaporation (21%). The remaining 14% of the capacity includes multiple-effect distillation, vapor compression, and electrodialysis reversal.

In the June AIChE Journal Perspective article, “A Perspective on Reverse Osmosis Water Desalination: Quest for Sustainability,” Yoram Cohen and Raphael Semiat of the Univ. of California, Los Angeles, and Aditya Rahardianto of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, provide an overview of RO-based desalination, identify challenges associated with this technology, and discuss the various factors that contribute to the overall cost of RO desalination.

RO desalination relies on a semipermeable membrane that allows water permeation but rejects dissolved solids. The feed side of the membrane is pressurized to a level above the osmotic pressure to provide the desired permeate water flux. The RO process is driven by a pump for...

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