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IBM Joins Saudis to Open Solar Desalination Plant


IBM is merging with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, to create a desalination system powered by the sun that would pump 7.9 million gallons of water daily for over 100,000 people.  The new solar plant will be constructed in Al Khafji, Saudi Arabia and will rely on concentrating photovoltaic arrays to generate enough energy to power its operations. If all goes well, a pilot plant will be ready for action by the end of this year.

The 10 megawatts solar farm will be able to magnify sunlight on a solar cell by up to 1500 times, nearly three times of what conventional systems are capable of. IBM will use a “liquid metal thermal interface” to cope with the heat generated and to keep the system running.

Development on the nanomembrane desalination technology and the UHCPV technology was done by scientists at the IBM Research labs in New York and California, and the KACST/IBM Nanotechnology Center of Excellence in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, which claims to be largest producer of desalinated water in the world, already had several desalination projects under way through KACST. The goal, however, is not simply to provide a source of drinking water but to create an exportable industry around water purification technology.

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