Water desalination processes separate dissolved salts and other minerals from water. Feedwater sources may include brackish, seawater, wells, surface (rivers and streams), wastewater, and industrial feed and process waters. Membrane separation requires driving forces including pressure (applied and vapor), electric potential, and concentration to overcome natural osmotic pressures and effectively force water through membrane processes. As such, the technology is energy intensive and research is continually evolving to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
Seawater desalination has the potential to reliably produce enough potable water to support large populations located near the coast.
Reverse osmosis (RO) and Nano-filtration (NF) are the leading pressure driven membrane processes. Membrane configurations include spiral wound, hollow fiber, and sheet with spiral being the most widely used. Contemporary membranes are primarily polymeric materials with cellulose acetate still used to a much lesser degree.
Ultrafiltration (UF) & Micro Filtration arethe membrane filtration system in which forces like pressure or concentration gradients lead to a separation through a semipermeable membrane. Ultrafiltration is not fundamentally different from microfiltration. Both of these separate based on size exclusion or particle capture. Suspended solids and solutes of high molecular weight are retained as the reject, while water and low molecular weight solutes pass through the membrane in the permeate (filtrate).
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