Osmosis has been happening in nature for millions of years. When it comes to the science of it, osmosis was first discovered in 1748 by Jean-Antoine Nollet. It was only later on, in 1940, when researchers began looking for ways to extract pure water from salty water. Researchers from UCLA made the major breakthrough in 1959 and were the first to demonstrate the process known as reverse osmosis.
The first commercial reverse osmosis plant in the world was constructed in Coalinga, California with the aid of Sidney Leob and Joseph W. McCutchan. Its pilot program took place in 1965 and captured the attention of engineers and governments from across the globe. Soon enough, new pilot programs kept popping up in different places. While the Coalinga plant dealt with producing pure water from brackish water, a plant in La Jolla dealt with extracting fresh water from the sea. This was a much taller task as the salt content of seawater is approximately 10 times more than that of the average brackish water.
Today, reverse osmosis and membrane filtration are being widely used around the world for thousands of applications and are expected to keep on growing. Sources of natural clean water are becoming much harder to find with each passing year, and so large reverse osmosis plants are providing much of the clean water that is being used in several countries and areas.