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RO and Dialysis: Use Cases for Chemistry and Medicine


RO and Dialysis: Use Cases for Chemistry and Medicine

There’s no doubt that the medical research industry is one of the world’s largest consumers of water treatment systems. Research institutions and hospitals alike invest in systems like dialysis and reverse osmosis to remove or exchange specific mineral solutes from the water. Many chemical processes require highly specific water composition, and the easiest way to achieve it is through membrane filtration methods of water treatment.

Two of the most common water treatment solutions used in the chemistry and medical research fields include dialysis and reverse osmosis. Here’s what you need to know about them:

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a diffusion method of membrane filtration. To understand how dialysis works, you need to understand diffusion. In any liquid solution, molecules move constantly. The movement is somewhat influenced by thermal changes, but is mostly random.

With dialysis, the substance being filtered is fed through a membrane with pores that are a specific size, engineered to include certain molecules and exclude others. Salts and other small molecules pass through the membrane, while the rest of the substance passes through, and can be considered a permeate.

Dialysis is most commonly used in artificial kidney devices to treat patients with kidney failure by removing urea from the patient’s blood. Properly functioning kidneys work to prevent extra water, waste, and impurities from accumulating in one’s body. Functioning kidneys also serve to control blood pressure and to regulate levels of chemicals in one’s blood, ranging from sodium to salt to potassium. Kidneys that function normally also help one’s body to absorb important vitamins like calcium. Since failing kidneys don’t carry out these functions in the body, dialysis works to make up for what is missed.

Today, dialysis is also used extensively in biotechnological development, as a desalting and buffer exchange method for large samples that require overnight testing, proving its versatility and value within the field of medicine.

What is Reverse Osmosis?

Recognized as a useful technology for over a century and commercialized in the 1960’s , reverse osmosis is also a method of membrane filtration , but an osmosis-based method. In nature, water passes from a less-concentrated solution toward a more-concentrated solution when it’s separated by a semipermeable barrier (such as a dam). This transfer from less-concentrated to more-concentrated continues occurring until both sides have the same concentration.

Reverse osmosis occurs when you apply enough external pressure, or osmotic pressure, to the highly concentrated solution to cause the osmosis process to flow in reverse: from highly-concentrated to less-concentrated.

As the concentrated solution flows through the semipermeable membrane, it passes into the less concentrated solution, leaving contaminants behind. The resulting permeate water is desalinated and free of contaminants, depending on the exact treatment process followed. Each RO system membrane is in the form of a spiral wound sheet of semi-permeable material. These membranes typically exist in two inch, four inch, and eight inch diameters.

RO systems employ cross filtration systems rather than that of a standard filtration, where contaminants are collected within the filter media. With cross filtration, the solution passes through the filter and has two outlets. In fact, the filtered water goes one way and the contaminated water goes the other. This cross flow filtration system allows water to swiftly sweep away contaminant build up and also allow the necessary turbulence to keep the membrane surface clean.

This system eliminates a wide range of contaminants throughout its process. It’s responsible for removing dissolved salts, colloids, organics, bacteria, and pyrogens from the feed water it encounters. Based upon a contaminants size and charge, an RO membrane knows whether to not it should be rejected. For instance, anything with a molecular weight greater than 200 is likely to be rejected by an RO system. Along the same vein, the greater the ionic charge of a contaminant, the more likely that it will not make it through the RO membrane.

Some of the highly regarded advantages of the reverse osmosis process is that these systems are simple to operate, they do not contain any harmful chemicals, and their energy efficiency.

Reverse Osmosis and Dialysis in Chemistry & Medicine

Reverse osmosis is one of the most flexible and available water treatment choices in the world, and it can be customized to any use case. Simply engineering the pore sizes can dramatically alter the types of substances being rejected, allowing you to target specific contaminants with better efficacy.

In fact, reverse osmosis is typically found to be an important part of the dialysis process. Water plays an important role in dialysis, and reverse osmosis has proven to be a safe, reliable, and economical method to purifying water for use with these machines. Because of water’s life-sustaining responsibility within dialysis, using one of the highest quality is vital.

Whereas dialysis centers in past decades used water directly from the tap to aid in the process, research now proves that certain water contaminants have caused severe complications for dialysis patients. Sophisticated water purification systems, like reverse osmosis, are now used to purify water, making it safe to use on patients.

Besides its use in dialysis, the versatility of reverse osmosis systems provides many industries with use cases:

  • Mining
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Food industry
  • Biological engineering
  • Home use
  • And more

Reverse osmosis also has the capability to effectively remove lead, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Since excess levels of lead can lead to increased blood pressure, fertility issues, and the development of muscle and nerve damage, it is regarded as a highly dangerous substance.

It’s clear from these examples that reverse osmosis filtration can address many different water concerns. The sheer flexibility of reverse osmosis and its ability to play well with other treatment types makes it a great choice for water treatment in chemistry and medicine. Whether it’s to be used in conjunction with a dialysis machine or for a different medical use, the primary source of water should be treated with reverse osmosis for the most control.

Looking for commercial Reverse Osmosis Systems? Call AXEON Water Technologies today at 800-320-4074 to speak with one of our water treatment Specialists!

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