When designing and building an optimal reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant, it is important that engineers select effective membrane parameters for optimal application performance. The membrane selection can determine the success or failure of the entire desalination operation. The objective of this work is to review available membrane types and design parameters that can be selected for optimal application to yield the highest potential for plant operations. Factors such as osmotic pressure, water flux values, and membrane resistance will all be evaluated as functions of membrane parameters. The optimization of these parameters will be determined through the deployment of the solution-diffusion model devolved from the Maxwell Stephan Equation. When applying the solution-diffusion model to evaluate RO membranes, the Maxwell Stephan Equation provides mathematical analysis through which the steps for mass transfer through a RO membrane may be observed and calculated. A practical study of the use of the solution-diffusion model will be discussed. This study uses the diffusion-solution model to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of Toray RO membranes. This practical application confirms two principal hypotheses when using the diffusion-solution model for membrane evaluation. First, there is an inverse relationship between membrane and water flux rate. Second, there is a proportional linear relationship between overall water flux rate and the applied pressure across a membrane.


  • With a reverse osmosis system, the cleaning usually begins once the normalized flux drops 10% to 15%, the normalized salt content of the permeate rises by 10%, or when the pressure gradient in the pressure vessel drops by 15% [2]

  • A linear relationship can be seen to exist between the water flux and the applied pressure drops, and it is confirmed that membrane flux decreases with the increase in membrane thickness when the pressure drop is constant

  • The findings from the Abqaiq 500 reverse osmosis (RO) plant examples show that the lowest membrane resistance and the highest overall water flux are the best membrane to select

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The optimization of plant production can help meet the global demand for clean water. Mathematical models can help resolve the optimization parameters of these systems which will allow for effective improvements. Any effort that improves clean water production inevitably contributes to the global demand for clean water which indirectly betters the quality of life for many. This review analyzes developments in membrane design and membrane parameters in order to illuminate the optimal parameters with the solution-diffusion model. The motivation for employing reverse osmosis systems is outlined, followed by models for exploring mass transfer through membranes. The solution-diffusion model is examined in relation to how it can help us optimize RO membrane parameters. Developments in thin, highly permeable membranes are analyzed and this review explores practical applications of the solution-diffusion model relative to RO membrane construction

Reverse Osmosis Systems Overview
RO Membrane Structure Overview
Motivation for Use of RO Systems
Models for Mass Transfer through Membranes
Model of mass transport through dense membrane and non-porous membrane
The Solution Diffusion Model
Practical Application of the Solution-Diffusion Model

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