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IBM, Saudi Arabia research center eye solar-powered desalination plant

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IBM and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Saudia Arabia's research arm, are collaborating on a solar-powered water desalination plant.

IBM and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Saudia Arabia's research arm, said Thursday they are collaborating on a solar-powered water desalination plant.

The research effort aims to do the following:

  • Create a desalination plant with production of 30,000 cubic meters a day;
  • Build it in Al Kharfji to serve 100,000 people;
  • Power the plant with ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic (UHCPV) technology jointly developed by IBM and KACST;
  • Desalinate water using IBM and KACST jointly developed nanomembrane that filters out salt and toxins with less energy.

Typically, seawater desalination efforts focus on thermal technology and reverse osmosis. The new plant aims to desalinate water more cheaply (blog, statement).

These desalination efforts are critical given that 97 percent of the Earth's water resides in oceans. If cheap desalination methods can be developed clean water would be more accessible in the developing world.

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Larry Dignan

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Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure