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MIT, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in collaboration

Two schools launch program on clean water, clean energy
Center Director Professor John H. Lienhard and KFUPM Rector Khalid S. Al-Sultan signing the research contract.
Center Director Professor John H. Lienhard and KFUPM Rector Khalid S. Al-Sultan signing the research contract.

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 (MechE) and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

The joint program will lead to the creation of the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT and KFUPM. The center, too, will focus on issues such as desalination, solar energy and advanced manufacturing. The center is expected to perform 16 joint research projects and eight joint educational projects over seven years. These joint projects will be funded by KFUPM.

The new center will be directed by Professor John H. Lienhard V, co-directed by Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi, and housed in MechE. Participants in center research projects will team up with faculty at KFUPM to conduct research on topics of mutual interest. Approximately 20 MIT faculty will be involved in the center's projects during the first year, with a similar number participating at KFUPM.

In addition, faculty and graduate students from KFUPM will have the opportunity to spend one or two semesters at MIT, and faculty from MIT will visit KFUPM for periods of one to two weeks each year. The center also includes a unique outreach program that will bring Saudi women engineers and scientists to MIT to participate in its research and educational projects.

The research contract was signed on June 15 in Dhahran by Lienhard and KFUPM Rector Khalid S. Al-Sultan. Also participating in the launch ceremonies were Youcef-Toumi; Mary C. Boyce, the Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Karen K. Gleason, the Alexander and I. Michael Kasser Professor of Chemical Engineering and the associate dean of engineering for research. The many KFUPM participants included Mechanical Engineering Department Head Dr. Amro M. Al-Qutub and Dr. Nesar Merah, who together spearheaded the development of the program at KFUPM.

The initial research efforts of the center will include:

• Photovoltaic power including silicon and polymer devices and systems,
• Desalination of seawater by advanced membranes and by thermal and solar power,
• Applications of nanotechnology to solar and thermoelectric energy conversion,
• Design and manufacturing of solar power systems and desalination systems,
• Advanced sensors for leak detection in water distribution networks, and
• Technologies for carbon capture

The center originated from a visit made by Youcef-Toumi to KFUPM in 2006 to participate in a workshop on design in mechanical engineering. Subsequent visits by six other MIT mechanical engineering faculty during 2007 led to a formal proposal for the center during the fall of that year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 3, 2008 (download PDF).

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