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.