Living in the desert comes with major advantages and disadvantages — excess solar power and not enough water, to be more specific. Now IBM and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology are teaming up to solve the water problem with solar-powered desalination technology. Eventually, the two organizations hope to construct a desalination plant in Al Khafji, Saudi Arabia that can harness sunlight to generate 7.9 million gallons of water daily — enough for 100,000 people.

So how will they achieve such a lofty goal? The plan is to a build a 10 megawatt solar farm that uses concentrating photovoltaic arrays to magnify sunlight 1,500 times on a single solar cell — a whopping three times the intensity of current concentrating photovoltaic panels. The secret sauce is something called a “liquid metal thermal interface”, which cools off the high temperatures created by the PV system.

Acording to Chandrasekhar (Spike) Narayan, who leads the Science and Technology Organization at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, “We can conceivably create a river of fresh water in countries that don’t have rivers–water for the masses at reasonable costs”.

If everything goes as planned, IBM and Saudi researchers will build a pilot plant later this year. Eventually, the technology could make its way to other parts of the world that could use fresh water — i.e. almost everywhere.



Via Green Inc.