IBM joins in Saudi solar desalination initiative

Saudi Arabia’s solar powered desalination initiative, announced in January, is now to involve the ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic (UHCPV) and nanomembrane desalination technologies being jointly developed by IBM and the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST).

IBM and KACST announced a research collaboration on 6 April 2010 aimed at a new energy-efficient plant with an expected production capacity of 30,000 m³/d in the city of Al Khafji to serve 100,000 people. The plant will be powered by UHCPV, which is capable of operating a CPV system at a concentration greater than 1,500 suns.

The KACST/IBM joint research focuses on improving polymeric membranes through nanoscale modification of polymer properties to make desalination much more efficient and much less costly. By combining solar power with the new nanomembrane, the goal of this project is to significantly reduce the cost of desalinating seawater.

“Currently, Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of desalinated water in the world, and we continue to invest in new ways of making access to fresh water more affordable,” said Dr Turki Al Saud, vice president for research institutes, KACST. “Water has the first priority in the Science, Technology and Innovation Plan of the Kingdom, overseen by KACST.”