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X-ray Scattering Studies of Reverse Osmosis Materials



Qinyi Fu, Nisha Verma, Benjamin S. Hsiao, Francisco J. Medellin-Rodriguez, Peter Beaucage, Christopher Stafford, Benjamin M. Ocko


Scarcity of freshwater is becoming a world crisis. In a recent annual risk report, the World Economic Forum lists it in their greatest global risk category. Currently, about four billion people live under conditions of severe water scarcity for at least one month out of the year [1]. Increasing water use efficiency is thus essential. However, this alone will not be able to provide adequate drinking water to meet the world's needs. The process of preparing drinking water from seawater and brackish water involves many stages, the final and most expensive of which is typically reverse osmosis (RO). Reverse osmosis processes operate by forcing water across a semi-permeable membrane by applying a pressure greater than the osmotic pressure of the feed solution (seawater,  ≈ 400 psi), thereby separating the water from any dissolved ions and impurities (rejection > 99%). The flux of water through the membrane is directly proportional to the amount of pressure applied above the osmotic pressure; however, the energy consumption is related to the total pressure. According to the American Membrane Technology Association, the amount of energy required to desalinate seawater with current technologies is approximately 1.0 kwh/m3 of water prepared, at an energy cost of 2.5 to 3.5 kwh/m3. RO materials have been tuned, modified, and optimized extensively since their initial discovery through an Edisonian approach. Despite immense technological progress [2], many basic scientific questions remain on the molecular structure of RO membranes. In this report, we demonstrate that synchrotron x-ray scattering methods offer the possibility of improving our fundamental understanding of RO materials.
Synchrotron Radiation News


scattering, membranes, reverse osmosis, polyamides, structure, x-rays


Fu, Q. , Verma, N. , Hsiao, B. , Medellin-Rodriguez, F. , Beaucage, P. , Stafford, C. and Ocko, B. (2020), X-ray Scattering Studies of Reverse Osmosis Materials, Synchrotron Radiation News, [online], (Accessed April 21, 2024)
Created August 24, 2020, Updated October 12, 2021