Selection criterion for reverse osmosis membrane

The ideal membrane for RO consists of a thin impermeable film. The transport properties of the material allow water to pass through with very little hindrance, while presenting a virtually impermeable barrier to salts. A membrane has to be extremely thin so that it has a large surface area for a maximum flow to occur across it, while simultaneously it is strong in order to withstand the feed driving pressure.

In choosing a RO membrane, a practical RO membrane for water applications should be permeable to water in preference to all other components of the feed stream. Also, the rate of permeation of water per unit surface area, or water flux, should be high enough to produce reasonable product volumes per unit time. Furthermore, the membrane must be durable physically, chemically, and biologically, and it must have a sufficiently extended life. Lifetimes for commercial RO membranes are in the order of 1-5 years, and waters with high total dissolved solids (TDS) reduce the life of membranes.

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