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Forward Osmosis and Possible Challenges Essay

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Updated: Jun 17th, 2020

When the solvent moves from a low solute concentration to a high solute concentration through a semi-permeable membrane to strike a balance between either sides of the membrane is referred to as forward osmosis (FO). Though an ancient technology, this phenomenon has played an important role in recycling of wastewaters and desalination of sea water.

Even with their important applications, the implementation of this technology as a novel technology by a state comes with it many challenges. Such issues as underestimating/overestimating the cost of the project, lack of sufficient knowledge, lack of regulation by the government and criticism from the public greatly influence the success of FO. To this end, the literature in this essay tries to establish the challenges that come with the adoption of FO by a state.

Forward osmosis is quite an intricate technology that requires comprehensive analyses of both the draw solution and the membrane-type to yield optimum results. Such challenge as the quality of the wastewater is an important parameter in determining the performance of the FO. To this end, the quality of the feed-water influences the fouling of the membrane; a factor that influences membrane performance.

In this respect, on implementing this technology all these parameters ought to be factored in the cost. In essence, all these parameters can be determined in the laboratory; however, the results might give inappropriate information owing to the changing nature of the feed-water. Consequently, a firm might end up overestimating/underestimating the budget for implementation.

Adopting new technology that is complex in nature can be quite difficult. The detail of this technology is that it incorporates vacuum membrane distillation in the FO. However, the literature provides separate information about the two components. As such, it proves a big challenge to overcome by the implementers who anticipate merging the two components to work as a unit. The engineers cum designers ought to develop the unit in the best possible way to achieve optimum results. To this end, before achieving perfect results, the initial designs would be inform of trial and error. Consequently, both time and money will be lost initially.

Normally, when launching a new technology there aren’t regulations set by the states to control the operations. To this end, the new technology might have detrimental effects either environmentally or socially. In essence, initially the technology is greeted with lots of excitement by the stakeholders only to know of its effects later. Importantly, this technology has a serious environmental impact since it increases carbon index in the air. The osmotic agent, ammonium bicarbonate (NH3HCO3), readily dissociates into ammonia and CO2 gases. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Urgent framing of laws would help regulate the operations vital in mitigating the negative effects (McCutcheon & McFinnis, 2005).

The adoption of new technology is normally greeted with lots of resistance from the people. Normally, people are very cautious of the effect the technology might have on them. For instance, some people might not believe that oil-sands exist and as such are reluctant to accept it for use. To end this notion, the implementers of new technologies might be required to adopt a public awareness program to erase away the fears. The implementers should invite the environmentalists to perform an environmental impact assessment analysis prior to the initiation of the project. This would equip the stakeholders with the knowledge about the effects of the project and hence help them develop ways of mitigating them (Elimeleches, 2011).


Elimeleches, M. (2011). “The future of seawater desalination: Energy, technology, and the environment,” Science, 333 (34), 712-717.

McCutcheon, J., & McFinnis, R. (2005). “A novel ammonia-carbon dioxide forward (direct) osmosis desalination process.” Desalination, 174 (5), 1-11.

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