When you make a salt water solution and then put a piece of vegetable inside it (say, a carrot), you see the effects of osmosis after a few hours. The water inside the carrot is more concentrated than outside, because the outside water has salt added to it. Therefore the water from inside the carrot will be drawn out, and the carrot will become limp and shriveled. This is one of the most common examples of osmosis. One of the most important real life applications of osmosis is in the process of kidney dialysis for nephrology patients. There are several other examples of osmosis in marine and plant life which we see every day. A related phenomenon called reverse osmosis is used to purify the water that we drink or use for other purposes. Let us take a look at the process of reverse osmosis filtering in UAE.
In the example of the carrot in water above, the molecules flows through a semi permeable membrane from an area of lower concentration (of water) to an area of higher concentration. In reverse osmosis, just like the name suggests, exactly the opposite of this happens. The water molecules get forced from an area of higher concentration of contaminants to an area of lower contaminant concentration through a porous layer, from where it is then guided on towards the storage area. The semi permeable layer used in the RO (reverse osmosis) process does not allow the contaminants to pass through. That is the reason this process is used for purification of water.
Let us take a look at how this principal is used in making reverse osmosis filters in UAE. There are three cylindrical vessels in a typical RO system. Only one of them contains the filtering ‘membrane’ – the central one. The other two cylinders have activated carbon for pre filter and post filter. The first pre filter is meant for keeping out the larger particulates. This keeps the membrane safe. Sometimes this cylinder also has arrangements for softening of water.
Next comes the cylinder with the membrane. The water is forced through this membrane. The elements that get blocked at this stage are sodium, chlorine, and calcium, as also particles of bacteria, virus, urea, and glucose. But most important, such membranes block out harmful elements like lead, arsenic, copper, selenium, radium, barium and different kinds of nitrates. Depending on which RO system is being used, some or all of these might be successfully kept out.
The final stage of filtration is called post filter. This also has activated carbon, and it provides the finishing touches to any contaminants which passed through the first two cylinders. The remaining odors or taste in the water are also removed at this last stage, if any.
Because the RO (reverse osmosis) process is so detailed and has arrangements for removing almost every type of contaminant, it is widely popular among households and commercial establishments in UAE. If used in conjunction with a water softener, an RO system can ensure the best quality drinking water.
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