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Osmosis Coursework Sample
Among the properties of solutions is that of osmosis. If we have a weak salt solution separated from a stronger salt solution by a plastic film of the proper kind, fluid will move through the film into the stronger solution and build up pressure there. Osmosis is at work in the cells of living plants and animals to maintain the proper fluid balance. Osmotic pressure stops the process of osmosis when this proper fluid balance has been achieved between the cell and its surrounding environment. If pressure increases, the flow can be reversed, and scientists interested in the problem of desalination have put this phenomenon to work. Called "reverse osmosis," the process was demonstrated at the First International Symposium on Water Desalination held in Washington in October 1965. At the meeting was a portable unit that produced 1400 gallons of fresh water a day.
Larger units have been operated in Pomona and San Diego, California, and it is predicted that improved designs will yield as much as 6000 gallons a day per cubic foot of osmotic membrane used. Because the reverse-osmosis desalination operates on pressure, smaller emergency drinking-water units have been suggested for use by the military, astronauts, and others faced with water-supply problems. In these small devices, muscle power would supply the driving force, and pump a canteen full of water in about half an hour.
While electrodialysis and reverse osmosis have given the most promise of the ion-exchange membrane processes, there are others under investigation. These include "osmionisis," in which the difference in salt concentration between brine and water to be purified provides the driving force, making electric or other power unnecessary. An even simpler process is that of "pressure filtering," in which very high pressure strains water through selectively permeable membranes to remove the salts. This latter process is hindered at present by being very slow, plus the mechanical consideration of operation at 1500 pounds per square inch.
The great importance of such desalination methods as electrodialysis is evident in the fact that there are very large supplies of brackish water throughout most of our country, including more than two-thirds of the states. When these are desalinated to supplement the fresh water available, the water picture may be considerably brighter.
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