Ion exchange is a reversible chemical reaction where an ion (an atom or molecule that has lost or gained an electron and thus acquired an electrical charge) from wastewater solution is exchanged for a similarly charged ion attached to an immobile solid particle (such as the resin).
Brief History
In 1850, Harry Thompson and John Way performed some of the first scientific research relating to an ion exchange process. In their experiment, a solution of ammonium sulfate was passed through the soil. The filtrate collected was composed of calcium sulfate instead of ammonium sulfate (KELLER 2005). The importance of this discovery was not fully understood until later in that decade when it was found that this reaction was reversible. Ion exchange was then primarily used to soften water.
The presence of calcium and/or magnesium in water results in water being considered “hard”. Calcium and magnesium ions in water react with heat, metallic plumbing, and chemical agents such as detergents to decrease the effectiveness of nearly any cleaning task. Thus, hard water can be softened using an ion exchange softening process.
Ion exchange processes can also remove various charged atoms or molecules (ions) such as nitrates, fluoride, sulfates, perchlorate, iron, and manganese ions as well as toxic metals (radium, uranium, chromium, etc.) from water. The most typical application of ion exchange is the preparation of high purity water for industrial applications, water softening, and removal of metals in the chemical industry.


Synthetic and industrially produced ion exchange resins consist of small, microporous beads that are insoluble in water and organic solvents. The most widely used base-materials are polystyrene and polyacrylate. The diameter of the beads is in the range of 0.3 to 1.3 mm. The beads are composed of around 50% water, which is dispersed in the gel-structured compartments of the material. 

Since water is dispersed homogeneously throughout the bead, water-soluble materials can move freely in and out. To each of the monomer units of the polymer, so-called “functional groups” are attached. These functional groups can interact with water-soluble species, especially with ions. Ions are either positively charged (cations) or negatively charged (anions). Since the functional groups are also charged, the interaction between ions and functional groups is exhibited via electrostatic forces. Positively charged functional groups interact with anions and negatively charged functional groups interact with cations. 

The binding force between the functional group and the attached ion is relatively weak. The exchange can be reversed by another ion passing across the functional group. This process can be repeated continually, with one exchange reaction following another. 


Ion exchange filtration is ideal for hydrogen fuel cell cooling circuits or closed-loop cooling systems. However, there’s a need for deionization in many other industries as well, such as the medical and aerospace fields. In addition, ion exchange is widely used in the food and beverage industry, metals finishing, chemical, pharmaceutical technology, sugar and sweetener production, nuclear, softening, industrial water treatment, semiconductor, and power industries! As one can see, the advantages of ion exchange extend to a variety of industries trying to achieve the highest purity of water.  

The i2M Solution

PROTECT+ion Omniflow protects equipment from excessive ionic charges. This is accomplished by using high capacity resins to provide low conductivity in an easy to service, ion exchange filter. The PROTECT+ion Omniflow performs exceptionally well in most liquid systems and is specifically designed for bypass flow applications. 

Our ion exchange filter comes in four sizes to cover a wide range of applications and meet all customers’ requirements. 

With a patented internal lattice structure, advanced design, optimized resin, and a range of sizes to choose from, the PROTECT+ion Omniflow can be ideal for your application! 


Dahman, Y. (2017). Nanopolymers. Nanotechnology and Functional Materials

     for Engineers, 121-144. doi:10.1016/b978-0-323-51256-5.00006-x 

KELLER, M.C. (2005): Basic Ion Exchange for Residential Water Treatment Part

     1. In: Water Conditioning and Purification: URL [Accessed: 24.05.2019] 

Ion exchange. (2020, September 19). Retrieved September 22, 2020, from