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Thu 28 Feb 2008 09:52 AM

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Saudi Arabia in nanotechnology drive

Kingdom to establish research centre bid to lessen its dependency on oil.

Saudi Arabia aims to establish itself as a regional leader in nanotechnology research in a bid to lessen its dependency on oil, the country has announced.

King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), the country's national research and development organisation, has signed an agreement with IBM Research to establish a Nanotechnology Centre of Excellence.

"Strategically this is very important technology for us," His Highness Dr Turki bin Saud, KACST vice president for research institutes told Arabian Business. "We missed the train in the past but we think this is our chance to ride the train and be part of this developed world, and we think the partnership with IBM will take us there."

Under the multi-year agreement, Saudi scientists and engineers will work alongside IBM scientists and engineers on advanced nanoscience and nanotechnology programmes in three fields; solar power, water desalination and petrochemical applications such as recyclable materials. The work will be conducted between teams working at IBM laboratories across Europe and America and the KACST/IBM Nanotechnology Centre for Excellence in Riyadh.

It is the use of nanotechnology in the petrochemicals industry that bin Saud believes will have the biggest impact on the country's economy.

"We really have to look at technology and not oil as our resource. [This type of technology] will benefit the world and help our economy not to depend on oil," he said.

In the area of water treatment, research will focus on the use of new nano-membrane materials for reverse osmosis seawater desalination.

Meanwhile, research into solar energy will include a focus on novel materials for the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity, known as photovoltaics.

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