KAUST showcases research & innovation at IECHE 2019

Derya Baran, first from left, KAUST assistant professor of material science and engineering, and the team that established iyris. (KAUST website)
Updated 15 April 2019
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KAUST showcases research & innovation at IECHE 2019

KAUST is hosting a special exhibition featuring its interdisciplinary research, innovation and several of its startup companies at the 8th International Exhibition & Conference on Higher Education (IECHE 2019) in Riyadh between April 10 and 13th.

The university’s participation reflects the conference’s theme this year, which is “Transforming Saudi Universities in an Era of Change.”

In a joint scientific session with Saudi Minister of Education Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh, Dr. Tony Chan, KAUST president, discussed a paper titled “Vision and Inspiration: Models of the New Governance.”

The KAUST exhibition sheds light on how researchers from the university’s Solar Center work on smart solar windows that turn some incoming sunlight into electricity.

Opaque, conventional silicon solar panel materials cannot be used for solar windows. The new solar windows are based on light harvesting organic molecules that could be printed onto glass like ink. The organic photovoltaic formulation captures infrared light — blocking heat from entering the building but allowing visible light to pass through.

This is the science behind iyris, the solar window startup company co-founded by Derya Baran, KAUST assistant professor of material science and engineering from the university’s Solar Center.

In mid-2018, her startup team — which includes Nicola Gasparini, Joel Troughton and Daniel Bryant — participated in TAQADAM, a Saudi university startup accelerator delivered by KAUST in partnership with SABB bank.

After completing the six-month program, iyris was one of the startup finalists awarded $100,000 of follow-on funding. iyris is now in talks with several window manufacturers about coating the light-harvesting layer onto their glass. This can be installed into electrically connected double-glazed window units.

The exhibition is also showcasing a three-year study conducted by KAUST Assistant Professor Himanshu Mishra’s team on the efficacy of SandX, a material comprising sand and paraffin wax. SandX dramatically reduced the evaporation of water under field trials in western Saudi Arabia led by researchers planting and tracking the growth, water consumption and harvest of a range of plants. The team worked in collaboration with plant scientists, hydrologists and microbiologists at KAUST and agronomists at King Abdul Aziz University.

KAUST is leading the way in research on salinity tolerance and the adaptation of plants growing in salty soil that could lead to advancements in desert agriculture within the Kingdom.

The KAUST exhibition also explains to visitors how in 2016, Mohamed Eddaoudi, KAUST distinguished professor of chemical science, and his research team discovered a breakthrough material that can effectively take up carbon dioxide (CO2) even when it is present at concentrations as low as 400 parts per million, opening up possibilities for capturing CO2 as it is generated.


Ma’aden acquisition supports Vision 2030

Updated 24 April 2019
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Ma’aden acquisition supports Vision 2030

The acquisition of an African fertilizer distribution company by Ma’aden, the largest Saudi mining company, will advance Ma’aden’s Strategy 2025, which includes plans to expand operations in the Kingdom and grow sales globally. The acquisition will also support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which seeks to diversify the economy, increase non-oil exports, boost the Kingdom’s non-oil GDP, and reinforce the mining sector as the third pillar of Saudi industry, after oil and gas and petrochemicals. 

Ma’aden will make its first international acquisition with the purchase of the Mauritius-based Meridian Group, which is due to be completed by September for an undisclosed fee.

The publicly-listed Saudi mining company will acquire an 85 percent stake in the company in an all-cash deal that will provide one of the Middle East’s largest phosphate producers with 3,000 staff and a network of operations across southern Africa, from Malawi to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Phosphate is used to produce fertilizer that is essential in replacing the phosphorous mineral that is removed from soil when agricultural crops are harvested. 

“This acquisition marks a very important step in Ma’aden’s strategy to build global distribution channels for our fertilizer products,” said Darren Davis, president and chief executive of Ma’aden. “As we continue to build one of the largest producers and exporters of phosphate fertilizers in the world, ensuring an efficient route to key growth markets is critical to our success.” 

Agriculture forms a significant portion of the economies of all African countries. As a sector, it can therefore contribute to major continental priorities, such as eradicating poverty and hunger. The agri industry can also boost intra-Africa trade and investments, rapid industrialization and economic diversification, sustainable resource and environmental management, and create jobs, human security and shared prosperity.

The Southeast African market, like most of the African continent of 1 billion people, is experiencing increased demand for phosphate fertilizers which industry analysts expect to continue growing by 5 percent annually over the next decade, fueled by population growth and increasing education in the use of fertilizers.

“Ma’aden is acquiring unparalleled access to complementary distribution, blending and product-development capabilities in this fast-growth region,” said Hassan Al-Ali, Ma’aden’s senior vice president for phosphate. “This transaction will provide us with logistics advantages in Southeast Africa, and greater knowledge of on-the-ground customer requirements, both of which will be instrumental in better serving our customers.”

The Saudi global mining giant will secure the remaining 15 percent of Meridian’s equity over four years on agreed terms linked to the performance of the African company, which distributes approximately half-a-million tons of fertilizer through its network of granulation and blending plants, warehousing complexes and port facilities. 

HSBC acted as Ma’aden’s financial adviser on the deal and Baker McKenzie was the Saudi company’s legal adviser for this acquisition.