The historical evolution of water purification

The historical evolution of water purification

In the beginning….

Water purification is an age-old process that can be traced way back to 1748 when French physicist, Jean-Antoine Nollet, used a pig’s bladder to demonstrate how Reverse Osmosis (RO) works.

Jean-Antoine Nollet

Image: Magnus Manske [Public domain]

Around 200 years later…

Yet despite Nollet’s pioneering demonstration, water purification wasn’t actually heard of outside of the scientific world for another 200 or so years.

The University of California 1868 UCSC

Image: Original University of California [Public domain]

1949 – to be precise

It’s at this point, that the University of California studied how effective semi-permeable (RO) membranes are at removing salt from seawater.


By the mid-1950s

The university’s researchers successfully produced fresh water from salty seawater. However, as successful as their activities may have been, the process wasn’t commercially viable and it took some time for the membrane technology to catch up.


Some 30 years later….

Scientist, John Cadotte, eventually made the breakthrough. He discovered that membranes with a particularly high flux and low salt passage could be created, using a process known as interfacial polymerisation. John’s breakthrough involved polymerising two chemicals, m-phenylene diamine and trimesoyl chloride.

By 2001

More than 15,000 desalination plants could be found (or were being planned) around the world.

Excel Water Demineralization Plant Case Study

The current picture

Fast forward to the here and now, and water treatment plants can still be found far and wide, for numerous reasons, including the fact they’re a chemical-free way of purifying water.

We’ve always built demineralisation plants, which still provide the highest quality water for the best price. In contrast, RO systems, can produce water to less than 5 micro siemens but, when compared to demin plants, do tend to be that bit more expensive.

Watch our short video for more on the differences between RO and demin systems:

Ever the industry leaders, we’ve developed the design of our RO plants; from a very basic model that purifies 180 litres an hour, to ROs that purify at a rate of 30m3 an hour. We’ve also changed the pumps on some of them to make them more energy efficient overall. They’ve also been designed to ‘recycle’ more reject water.

As for the future of water purification? As far as we’re concerned, our systems will continue to evolve so that they continue to be as efficient and effective as possible. As for the industry as a whole; water treatment plants will undoubtedly become more affordable as the technology that powers it becomes more advanced. 

For more information or to discuss how our water purification systems can boost your operations by improving quality and reducing downtime, contact us on or 0113 232 0005.