Theory of Ion and Water Transport in Reverse-Osmosis Membranes

Y. S. Oren, P. M. Biesheuvel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We present a theory for ion and water transport through reverse-osmosis (RO) membranes based on a Maxwell-Stefan framework combined with hydrodynamic theory for the reduced motion of particles in thin pores. We take into account all driving forces and frictions both on the fluid (water) and on the ions including ion-fluid friction and ion-wall friction. By including the acid-base characteristic of the carbonic acid system, the boric acid system, H3O+/OH-, and the membrane charge, we locally determine pH, the effective charge of the membrane, and the dissociation degree of carbonic acid and boric acid. We present calculation results for an experiment with fixed feed concentration, where effluent composition is a self-consistent function of fluxes through the membrane. A comparison with experimental results from literature for fluid flow vs pressure, and for salt and boron rejection, shows that our theory agrees very well with the available data. Our model is based on realistic assumptions for the effective size of the ions and makes use of a typical pore size of a commercial RO membrane.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024034
JournalPhysical Review Applied
Issue number2
StatePublished - 28 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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