Read about the history of reverse osmosis. Find out the revolting animal part that was used as the first reverse osmosis membrane. Was this one of the most important discoveries of recent years?
The History of Reverse Osmosis
We better start by defining just what reverse osmosis water or RO water is.
So, what is reverse osmosis water?
Reverse osmosis water is water that has been passed through “a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles” (Wikipedia)
The process can actually be traced back to 1748 to a French physicist of the name Jean-Antoine Nollet. Nollet used a pig’s bladder as the reverse osmosis membrane, to illustrate the process.
The method wasn’t heard of outside of the scientific world for another 200 years. In 1949, the University of California studied the effectiveness of semipermeable membranes (RO membranes) in the desalination (removal of salt) of seawater. Researchers then successfully produced fresh water from the salty seawater, in the middle of the 1950s. However, the process was still not a commercially viable one, and it took a while for the membrane technology to catch up. Scientists had proved it was a viable process, but the cost and technology involved in constructing a membrane with commercial appeal still held back progress. Scientist, John Cadotte eventually made the breakthrough, and by 2001, over 15,000 desalination plants could be found (or were being planned) around the world.
Today, reverse osmosis accounts for 80% of the desalination plants worldwide. The technology has also been converted for the home, and it remains one of the most effective methods of water filtration available to us. The discovery of the reverse osmosis method of filtration, and indeed the ability to do it cost-effectively, may be two of the most important scientific breakthroughs of recent times. With a rapidly increasing population, we are already starting to struggle to feed and water the world. Reverse osmosis has allowed us to source water from practically anywhere, and provided solutions to water shortages in countries throughout the world. Furthermore, water pollution is a bigger problem than ever, and continues to increase and gain massive media attention. Home reverse osmosis systems offer an affordable home solution to this problem. With contaminant rejection rates of up to 99% claimed by manufacturers like APEC, they can offer peace of mind to families worried about the state of their drinking water.
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