Semipermeable membranes play critical roles in many natural and engineering systems. The osmotic pressure is found experimentally much less effective than the hydraulic pressure to drive water through the membrane, which is commonly attributed to the internal concentration polarization (ICP) in the porous layer of the membrane. In this study, it has been shown that a necessary condition for the osmotic pressure to be effective is water continuity across the entire membrane thickness under negative pressure, i.e., the water inside the membrane remains in a metastable state. However, the metastable state of water cannot be maintained indefinitely, and cavitation will undoubtedly occur in the osmotically driven processes. Collapse of the water metastable state was suggested for the first time to be a more important and fundamental reason for the low water fluxes in the osmotically driven membrane processes.
- Metastable state
- Osmotically driven membrane processes
- Water continuity
- Water flux