Osmosis is a physical phenomenon that has been extensively studied by scientists in various disciplines of science and engineering. Early researchers studied the mechanism of osmosis through natural materials, and from the 1960s, special attention has been given to osmosis through synthetic materials. Following the progress in membrane science in the last few decades, especially for reverse osmosis applications, the interests in engineered applications of osmosis has been spurred. Osmosis, or as it is currently referred to as forward osmosis, has new applications in separation processes for wastewater treatment, food processing, and seawater/brackish water desalination. Other unique areas of forward osmosis research include pressure-retarded osmosis for generation of electricity from saline and fresh water and implantable osmotic pumps for controlled drug release. This paper provides the state-of-the-art of the physical principles and applications of forward osmosis as well as their strengths and limitations.

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