Reverse Osmosis Examples

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Well, these people think so.

On June 15, 1989, William and Simonne Butler of Florida (USA) were sailing in the Pacific Ocean 1200 miles off Costa Rica on a round-the-world cruise. Suddenly, whales attacked their boat and it began sinking. They quickly made their way to a life raft, throwing whatever they could into it, pushed off and watched their boat sink.

The had nine cans of food, two cans of crackers, a half jar of peanut butter and about 45 liters of fresh water. They also had their Survivor-35, a hand-operated reverse osmosis pump.

Through some very clever design, the pump requires about the same effort as a bicycle pump. It produced enough pure water for the Butlers' daily drinking needs with about one hour of pumping each day.

With their water needs taken care of, they concentrated on catching fish to supplement their food supplies. When they were rescued 66 days later, they had both lost weight, but were in reasonably good health.

The ChemTeam is quite sure the Butlers would agree that reverse osmosis is a good thing!

Another use for pure water from reverse osmosis is in Saudi Arabia. On its Persian Gulf coastline, Saudi Arabia runs several large RO plants and pumps the pure water to its cities. Since the country lacks enough well water for its needs, the RO water is quite important.

During the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq discharged a large amount of oil into the Gulf and there was concern that the oil would foul the water intakes of the RO plants. Large wooden logs similiar to telephone poles were quickly hooked together and extended from shore to shore and out for several hundred feet from the intakes to block the oil. The oil did much damage to the local ecology, but never affected the RO plants.

Many college chemistry departments have a small-scale RO plant in their basement. This produces very pure water which is piped to the labs and used in the students' experiments.

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