Riding the Wave of Reverse Osmosis

Perspective from Jane Kucera

September 06, 2023

Reverse Osmosis System

From microelectronics to municipal wastewater, companies rely on reverse osmosis (RO) to transform the water they have into the water they want. Quality water helps industrial and commercial businesses maintain a steady stream of operations, enabling everything from product manufacturing to water reuse and recycling. 

While RO sits at the heart of many water treatment operations today, innovators like Jane Kucera were at the forefront of developing the technology in its early stages. Jane, a published author and Nalco Water senior industry technical consultant, recently sat down with Nalco Water lead chemist, Alex Gaudette, to share her RO expertise. During the conversation, Jane offered insight from her 41-year career, including her passion for helping our customers achieve better outcomes, and her perspectives on the future of RO innovation. 


Alex: As an expert in RO, can you explain RO and why it's important within water management?  

Jane: Reverse osmosis is used to separate dissolved solids from water, yielding two separate streams. As a result, one stream is left with a heavy concentration of dissolved solids, and the other stream contains relatively pure water with only a few dissolved solids remaining. The relatively pure water can be reused in water treatment operations, like boiler feedwater for example. High-tech, pharma and microelectronics use a lot of reverse osmosis, and we're seeing it in wastewater now too. To support water recycling, and ultimately, sustainability goals, the end step is typically reverse osmosis. 

Alex: You've recently published a revised edition of a leading reverse osmosis technical guide. How has RO evolved over your 40-year tenure?  

Jane: When I first started, cellulose acetate membranes, which were the first commercially viable membranes, were still the norm. There were some linear polyamides in use, but the polyamide membranes that everybody uses today were just being patented in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Those membranes had high water throughput, high salt rejection and low operating pressure compared to other membranes that were on the market. Since then, the industry has developed polyamide membranes to increase productivity, reduce pressure and increase selectivity.  

Alex: As water recycling becomes the norm in industries like microelectronics, the demand for RO is increasing. How do you support new innovation?  

Jane: Much of our development focuses on RO and scale control solutions, such as antiscalants for silica and calcium phosphate which are both very difficult to control. We’re also focused on digital innovations. One of the questions I get from customers all the time is, “How do I know when to clean membranes and when to replace them?” Digital solutions like 3D TRASAR™ technology for membranes offer both automation and visibility, which leads to insights into how operators can optimize their RO process. These types of innovations can help increase the value that our solutions deliver for our customers. 

Check out the video below for a high-level membrane demonstration and click here to learn more about Nalco Water’s reverse osmosis solutions. 


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