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What part of a forward osmosis system would be most vulnerable to sabotage?

Bio domeConfused? Fear not, the email below explains everything. About a week ago, ForwardOsmosisTech received a request for advice from Beth, who’s writing a Science-Fiction novel where forward osmosis technologies are included. Since this sounds like an awesome project we are of course more than happy to lend Beth a helping hand. Scroll past the email from Beth to see our answer to her question.


Dear Forward Osmosis Tech,

I am writing a Young Adult Near-Future Science-Fiction novel. The book includes the use of forward osmosis technology, and I am wondering if someone there would be able to give me some advice.

My characters are living in a bio-dome after a worldwide apocalypse. I need them to be forced to leave the safety of the dome. My plan is to have someone sabotage the forward osmosis system by removing or destroying a part that they can later obtain to repair the system. The characters then need to go and retrieve a replacement part. I can have the saboteur destroy all the replacement parts at the dome, if it is a part they would logically carry extras of for repairs. The saboteur would be controlling small robots that would actually do the damage. So it can’t be something requiring a lot strength or force. The saboteur’s goal is to break the system to obtain control over the group of survivors. He is not trying to destroy the system.

I am thinking of having the part be a valve or a hose, but I would like it to be specific to a forward osmosis system, so that they can’t just go to any hardware store for a replacement. I am unaware of how long the membranes last and if they need to be replaced. I could have them destroy the replacement membranes with fire (if they are flammable), acid, etc. I want my book to be based in scientific reality as much as possible without delving too deeply into scientific jargon and theory that would confuse or bore teenage readers.

Do you have any suggestions of the part(s) I should have sabotaged?

Thank you for your time, work, and efforts towards green solutions for our world.

E. F. Fewkes (aka Beth)

Here’s what we would sabotage

Basically, a forward osmosis system for production of drinking water will contain the following main components:

  • Forward osmosis membrane modules
  • Various tanks, hoses, valves, and pumps
  • A recyclable draw solute (e.g. inorganic salts, polymers, magnetic nano-particles, etc)
  • A draw solute recycling system (e.g. membrane modules (RO, NF, UF), various means of temperature manipulation, magnetic field generators, etc)

Based on the above, we suggest the draw solution regeneration system in Beth’s forward osmosis system in Beth’s novel to be based on magnetic nano-particles and a magnetic field generator. To sabotage this system, the robots would then be programmed to remove critical components of the magnetic field generator. Without the field generator in place, the forward osmosis system will not be able to produce drinking water.



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