King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) recently led a session of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China.
KAUST President Tony Chan was accompanied by KAUST faculty members Peiying Hong, Mohammed Eddaoudi and Derya Baran. This year’s edition of the annual event was held under the banner “Leadership 4.0: Succeeding in a New Era of Globalization.”
Chan inaugurated the IdeasLab session — a first for the Kingdom. The session, titled “Fast-Tracking Green Technology,” featured the innovative work of KAUST researchers including water reuse technologies, carbon sequestration and transparent solar panels embedded in windows.
Chan described KAUST as a new, innovative hub for global research and education, before introducing the session’s three academic presenters.
Peiying Hong, associate professor of environmental science and engineering at KAUST, focused on her work on water reuse and used a famous quote of environmental scientist Dr. Jonathan Foley: “When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.”
She hopes to help the Kingdom replicate methods of water reuse that have proven effective in water-challenged cities such as Singapore. She demonstrates a multimodal approach, combining anaerobic decay, which can generate methane as an energy source, with membranes and ultraviolet light. The combination of three approaches can serve to obtain clean water for safe reuse.
Mohamed Eddaoudi, distinguished professor of chemical science at KAUST, highlighted his research on carbon capture technologies.
Eddaoudi hopes to help bridge the gap between humanity’s energy needs and the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “A better approach to the CO2 problem is to deploy effectively a circular carbon economy,” Eddaoudi said.
Derya Baran, assistant professor of material science and engineering at KAUST, gave a presentation on her research on transparent solar cells. Baran has launched a KAUST spinoff, iyris, which aims to turn windows into solar power plants the world over.
“At KAUST, we designed a new solar panel that is able to selectively absorb the infrared portion of the spectrum, convert it into electricity and leave the visible part undetectable to the human eye,” Baran said. She envisions cities of the future offsetting much of their power needs locally by turning all glass windows into power generators.
Thus, coming from entirely different fields, each of these technologists accomplishes a separation that is environmentally valuable in its own right, and as a by-product, it partly pays for itself.