I attended this conference back in March. The press release for the proposal came out several weeks ago. But I’ve sat on the PR because I’ve wanted to give the matter more thought.
A comment voiced by Americans at the workshop was that the US desalination research community is aware that current research strongly suggests that +-5 years from now the cost of desalination will drop dramtically. However, the US desalination industry –as of March– is not generally aware of what’s happening in basic research.
For this reason, I think it would be better if US funding for this project came from private rather than public sources. (There is a caveat which I mention below.) One candidate would be a US company that is positioned to impliment desalination research discoveries on a large scale. For the US that company would be GE.
Perhaps the man to approach to fund the basic research here is Philip M. Rolchigo.
Consider this bio from the WaterReUse Association Web Site
Philip M. Rolchigo, Ph. D. of GE Water was elected to the WateReuse Foundation Board of Directors during a May 16 Board meeting in Phoenix, AZ. Dr. Rolchigo has worked in research and development since 1988 and now serves as Water Technologies’ Business Program Manager in GE’s Global Research Center. Wade Miller, Executive Director of the Foundation, noted that “Dr. Rolchigo will bring a couple of important dimensions to the Foundation Board. First, GE’s Global Research Center is out on the ‘cutting edge’ of advanced treatment technologies; this knowledge will help the Board to fund projects that are truly ‘value added propositions.’ Second, Dr. Rolchigo has been involved with the Joint Water Reuse & Desalination Task Force (JWR&DTF) activities over the past two years and therefore understands what the Foundation and the Task Force are trying to achieve in desalination. We look forward to having Phil serve on the Board.”
There is a caveat that I would make to this: That is, if water desalination were moved from the business level to the political level. For example, there would, imho, be a political benefit to a joint statement made by the US President and the Prime Minister of Israel to the effect that the two countries planned to work together collapse the cost of water desalination by a factor of 10 in the next 10 years–and thereby make it economically possible to turn the world’s deserts green — and double the size of the habitable planet.
I think that this would have the same effect as Reagan’s Star Wars Speech. That speech changed the future because it changed the bad guy’s expectations about the future.
Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres has been actively pushing for Israel to get involved with nanotechology as a way to reduce costs for things such as desalination. Senator Domenici of New Mexico has been championing desalination research in the USA. But neither the Kadima Party or the Republican Party leadership currently recognize the profound impact on world affairs that cheap desalinised water would have–and how close that reality is. Someone might want to get leadership up to speed on this.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bob Rosenbaum
for Water Purification
Collaborative effort targets most promising areas for water treatment
TEL AVIV, Israel – 10 July 2006 – Water researchers from leading institutions in Israel and the U.S. have targeted four cutting-edge projects for collaborative research between the two countries.
Their selection is one outcome of a bi-national workshop held in Washington DC in mid-March, organized by the U.S. and Israeli national nanotechnology initiatives, and theCenter of Advanced Materials for Purification of Water with Systems (WaterCAMPWS) at the University of Illinois.
Prof. Rafi Semiat, Director of the Grand Water Research Institute at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and a workshop organizer, said that while the group will promote all 12 nanotech-based projects that were outlined at the workshop, special focus is being given to four projects that can provide extraordinary benefits for water purification, and that have the potential to be applied commercially within the next five years.
“Both countries see the target projects not only as very exciting, potential breakthroughs, but also as applied research that can get funded and get commercialized quickly,”
The target projects focus on distinct nanotechnology-based solutions that were outlined at the bi-national workshop: membranes and membrane processes, biofouling and disinfection, contaminants removal, and environmental monitoring and sensors.
The four targeted projects are:
Development of new, porous polymer-based ultra-filtration membranes with special coatings, that exhibit higher flux and higher resistance to contamination as well as robust molecular sieving abilities. The project will create and test selfassembling membranes with very stable transport channels that reduce biofouling and may also be capable of self-cleaning.
Development of coatings with antimicrobial capabilities that can minimize biological attachment and biofilm formation that can be applied to current Researchers in Israel and US Select Top Four Nanotech Projects for Water Purification generation membranes that are used for drinking water, wastewater and desalination.
Study of mixed metal oxide nanostructured materials for the destruction of biological toxins in surface water and groundwater, using photocatalysis and oxidation. The project will provide data for optimizing the use of these materials in various environments.
Development of whole-cell microbial biosensors to detect minute metabolite excretions from newly-forming biofilms. The project will examine the mechanisms of biological attachment to surfaces, identify its biochemical signals, and develop nanoscale sensors that can be applied to membrane surfaces, enabling optimized maintenance for water purification membranes and significant extension of membrane lifetimes.
Rich Sustich, Industrial and Governmental Development Manager for the WaterCAMPWS and a workshop organizer, said that there is special excitement over the proposed biosensor project, which may result in new tools and methods for water systems operation and reduction of long-term maintenance costs.
“Today’s water infrastructure is run on a one-size-fits-all concept.” Sustich noted. “Systems are assembled from standard components, and maintenance relies more on manufacturer’s recommendations than on a direct understanding of what’s really happening during treatment. This works, but it’s very wasteful.”
Adding biosensing devices throughout the water treatment system will provide direct awareness and interaction with the system in real time. The proposed biosensors can eventually lead beyond passive sensing to the development of ‘smart’ membranes that react biologically to changes in the system’s environment, and perhaps even prevent biofilm and toxics formation without the need for manual intervention.
These treatment concepts mimic those already used successfully in medicine: developing biological-based sensors that can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy cells and enable drug delivery only to the unhealthy cells.
Workshop participants agreed that such biosensing mechanisms could be applied within 5 to 10 years, given the needed development resources. All of the March workshop’s target projects use nanotechnology to move water treatment from today’s broad ‘shotgun’ approach to more focused and discrete treatments. “We’re developing water systems that are capable of identifying and addressing contaminants at the molecular level,” Sustich said. “The things that are not toxic and don’t need to be removed won’t be removed. Smart systems that remove only the harmful contaminants will be much more efficient and sustainable.”
Water purification is among the most challenging health, social and technological issues facing the world today. Israel and the U.S., acknowledged leaders in water treatment and water systems management, are seeking to find collaborative ways to use evolving nanotechnology research as platforms for new water treatment solutions, and to help reduce the costs of maintaining water and wastewater infrastructures.
This first joint workshop hosted nearly 50 participants, among them 20 leading water researchers (equally representing Israel and the U.S.) from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sandia National Laboratories, Technion Israel Institute, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Yale University, and other institutions.
Among the attendees at the workshop were Dr. Mike Roco, Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at the NSF, Dr. Celia Merzbacher, Assistant Director for Technology at the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Rafael Harpaz, Minister counselor of Public Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC.
Workshop sponsors are seeking approximately $600,000 to support costs of binational collaboration on all 12 projects, with funding to be matched equally between Israeli and U.S. sources. Additional workshops are also planned.
Technical information and funding details on all projects are available upon request.
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About the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)
The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a federal U.S. R&D program established to coordinate the multi-agency efforts in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. The NNI is managed within the framework of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a Presidential Cabinet-level council by which the President coordinates science, space, and technology policies across the Federal Government. Twenty-three federal U.S. agencies participate in the Initiative, including the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). More information can be found at: http://www.nano.gov/
About the Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative (INNI)
The INNI is a shared initiative of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and Israel’s Ministry of Trade and Industry and responsible for setting national goals and priorities for advancing nanotechnology in Israel. A key task of the INNI is to promote fruitful collaboration between Israeli and global nanotechnology stakeholders, particularly for projects that lead to continuing success in academia and industry. Promoting Israeli nanotechnologies for used in water purification is a primary goal for the INNI. More information can be found at: http://www.nanoisrael.org/
About the UIUC WaterCAMPWS
The Center for Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems (WaterCAMPWS) is a science and technology center of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The WaterCAMPWS brings together the knowledge and experience of water researchers from ten leading universities and institutions from around the U.S. Its primary mission is to develop revolutionary new materials and systems for safely and
economically purifying water for human use, while simultaneously developing the diverse human resources needed to exploit the research advances and the knowledge base created. More information can be found at: