Researchers develop advanced water purification system

Updated 13 February 2013

Researchers develop advanced water purification system

Researchers at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and MIT have developed an advanced system to purify water that comes from natural gas wells, it was announced yesterday. The energy-efficient system will benefit people in the developing countries, the researchers said.
Dr. Amr Al-Qutub, director of the Center of Research Excellence at KFUPM, said the new system is significant in the wake of growing use of natural gas to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. “The water in gas and oil wells is highly salty and mixed with oil. The new technology developed by our researchers offers a good solution to purify this water.”
He disclosed plans to establish a Saudi company for desalination using the new technology. “It will be the first company in the Kingdom based on a research technology.” The new system will help supply adequate amount of drinking water to homes and residential districts. More than one device can be installed on a tank, each with a capacity to produce 3,000 to 4,000 liters of water daily.
The research is the work of a team including MIT postdoc Prakash Narayan, mechanical engineering professor John H. Lienhard V, and collaborators at KFUPM.

The method is a variation of the standard distillation process, in which salty water is vaporized and then condenses on a cold surface; the salt separates out during evaporation. But this process is energy-intensive — and therefore costly — because all the water must be heated to the boiling point, while the condensing surfaces must be kept cold.
In the new process, water well below the boiling point is vaporized by direct contact with a carrier gas; the moist air is subsequently bubbled through cooler water where the purified vapor condenses.
But the temperature difference between the warm and cool water is much less than in conventional dehumidifiers, and the surface area provided by the small bubbles is much greater than that of a flat condenser surface, leading to a more efficient process.
Lienhard says, “We became interested in the HDH process at the start of our collaboration with KFUPM as a means of providing water to off-grid regions of the developing world. Both the MIT and the KFUPM faculty wanted to develop a technology that might benefit people all over the world.”

At the beginning of his doctoral thesis research, Narayan was focused, he says, on ways “to increase energy efficiency and thermal efficiency, and to reduce size and cost” for desalination plants. Such facilities are a critical need in parts of the developing world — such as in southern India — that have limited fresh water but abundant seawater.

Conventional distillation plants have efficiencies of scale — the bigger they are, the more cost-effective — but for the HDH system, the optimum size is a plant that produces about 1,200 to 2,400 liters of clean water a day, about the capacity needed for a rural village. Such plants can easily be made larger simply by adding more modules, he says.
Leon Awerbuch, dean of the IDA Desalination Academy in Winchester, Mass., says, “This is very unique research work leading to a much higher-efficiency solution than conventional HDH, and could have significant impact in desalination for small and medium systems.”
Solar energy, the desalination of seawater, and other technologies related to the production of fresh water and low-carbon energy will be the focus of a seven-year research and educational program launched between faculty in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and KFUPM in Dhahran. The center of research excellence is expected to perform 16 joint research projects and eight joint educational projects over seven years. These joint projects will be funded by KFUPM.


Misk Global Forum discusses change in the workplace

Updated 14 November 2019

Misk Global Forum discusses change in the workplace

RIYADH: The Misk Global Forum began its second day on Wednesday with a session titled “Dinosaur or future-fit? Careers in a post-job era.”

The session discussed the evolution of change in the workplace. Panelists included Dr. Badr Al-Badr, CEO of the Misk Foundation; Princess Aljohara Al-Saud, partner at Henning Larsen studio; Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; and Ezequiel da Rosa, CEO and founder of Piipee.

Princess Aljohara, one of the first Saudi female architects, discussed the hardships she faced when she first started working.

“Few organizations at that time had women in their offices,” she said. Undeterred, she “saw an opportunity and grabbed it.”

She said: “I progressed and started as a junior architect. My skills and machines gradually developed and I became a business development manager in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Badr said “many organizations,” including the Misk Foundation and the Saudi Education Ministry, “are focusing on reskilling and retooling.”

He added that the ministry is working to amend the curriculum to better suit the labor market.

But he urged youths to be proactive about acquiring skills. “Take charge of your career. Don’t wait for the education system to be fixed,” Al-Badr added.

He said: “The current careers are very different from the ones of the previous generation,” adding that “the careers of our children will significantly differ from the current careers.”

He stressed the need to improve personal skills, as traditional universities have always focused on technical skills, while personal skills come at a secondary level.

Al-Badr pointed out that personal skills are represented in work ethics, presentation skills, speaking skills and emotional intelligence, adding that some universities have started teaching them. Misk has also designed specialized programs to enhance those skills.

He called on students to take the initiative and not wait until universities change their curricula and correct the educational system. He pointed out that there are many places to acquire these skills, whether through Misk’s programs, or the internet, in addition to many government programs that enhance the personal skills of entrepreneurs, freelancers, or even traditionalists.

Al-Badr explained that many organizations, including Misk, are focusing on reteaching skills and tools, pointing out that the Ministry of Education is relaunching new curricula. He also discussed partnerships between universities and major companies for the formulation of courses that best suit the labor market and workplaces.

Ugochukwu said: “One thing that computers and AI (artificial intelligence) can’t do is show compassion. It’s what people have, and that’s what’s critical in the future.”

She said her foundation has trained over 10,000 African entrepreneurs. “The key word is training, training, training,” she added.

“We have a strong emphasis on leveraging technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is on its way, and Africa sure doesn’t want to miss it.” A huge part of entrepreneurship is to “create a solution that doesn’t exist,” Ugochukwu said.  To her, entrepreneurship is not “about starting a business.” Rather, it is a “mindset of doing it in the best possible way.”

She added: “Every human being has an innate talent that’s unique to them. We must tap into that talent to see outstanding achievement.”

Da Rosa, who has been an entrepreneur since the age of 16, said: “The most important thing is to make people happy and help them achieve their dreams. If you do that, you have a team.”

He added: “The point of being an entrepreneur is to do and to move. I think everyone here can do something and change something.”