Teaching Mass Transfer and Filtration Using Crossflow Reverse Osmosis and Nanofiltration: An Experiment for the Undergraduate Unit Operations Lab


  • Daniel Anastasio University of Connecticut
  • Jeffrey McCutcheon University of Connecticut


A crossflow reverse osmosis (RO) system was built for a senior-level chemical engineering unit operations laboratory course. Intended to teach students mass transfer fundamentals related to membrane separations, students tested several commercial desalination membranes, measuring water flux and salt rejections at various pressures, flow rates, and feed water salinities. Ultimately, students used the data they collected to calculate each membrane’s hydraulic permeability constant and salt rejection. These values were compared to the manufacturer’s specifications. Boundary layer theory was utilized to predict theoretical permeability, flux values, or rejection for saline feeds after accounting for concentration polarization. This system has also shown versatility, being used as part of an undergraduate/graduate level Membrane Separations course and to demonstrate RO to visiting high school students.

Author Biographies

Daniel Anastasio, University of Connecticut

Daniel Anastasio received his B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut in 2009. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Connecticut while acting as an instructional specialist for the chemical engineering undergraduate laboratory. His research interests include osmotical/y driven membrane separations and engineering pedagogy.

Jeffrey McCutcheon, University of Connecticut

Jeffrey McCutcheon is the Northeast Utilities Assistant Professor in Environmental Engineering Education in the Department of Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received his B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Dayton in 2002 and his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Yale University in 2008. His primary research areas are membrane separations, electrospinning, and emerging water treatment technologies.