Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Environmental Analysis
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Israel-Chicago Partnership Targets Water Resource Innovations

Published: Monday, June 24, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, June 24, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Partnership is to create new materials and processes for making clean, fresh drinking water more plentiful and less expensive by 2020.

The University of Chicago and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will begin funding a series of ambitious research collaborations that apply the latest discoveries in nanotechnology.

The announcement came June 23 following a meeting in Jerusalem among Israeli President Shimon Peres, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, Ben-Gurion University President Rivka Carmi and leading scientists in the field. The joint projects will explore innovative solutions at the water-energy nexus, developing more efficient ways of using water to produce energy and using energy to treat and deliver clean water.

The University of Chicago also brings to the effort two powerful research partners already committed to clean water research: the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

“We feel it is critical to bring outstanding scientists together to address water resource challenges that are being felt around the world, and will only become more acute over time,” said Zimmer. “Our purification challenges in the Great Lakes region right now are different from some of the scarcity issues some of our colleagues at Ben-Gurion are addressing, but our combined experience will be a tremendous asset in turning early-stage technologies into innovative solutions that may have applications far beyond local issues.”

“Clean, plentiful water is a strategic issue in the Middle East and the world at large, and a central research focus of our university for more than three decades,” said Carmi. “We believe that this partnership will enhance state-of-the-art science in both universities, while having a profound effect on the sustainable availability of clean water to people around the globe.”

The first wave of research proposals include fabricating new materials tailored to remove contaminants, bacteria, viruses and salt from drinking water at a fraction of the cost of current technologies; biological engineering that will help plants maximize their own drought-resistance mechanisms; and polymers that can change the water retention properties of soil in agriculture.

UChicago, BGU and Argonne have jointly committed more than $1 million in seed money over the next two years to support inaugural projects, with the first projects getting under way this fall.

One proposed project would attempt to devise multi-functional and anti-fouling membranes for water purification. These membranes, engineered at the molecular level, could be switched or tuned to remove a wide range of biological and chemical contaminants and prevent the formation of membrane-fouling bacterial films. Keeping those membranes free of fouling would extend their useful lives and decrease energy usage while reducing the operational cost of purifying water.

Another proposal focuses on developing polymers for soil infusion or seed coatings to promote water retention. Such polymers conjure visions of smart landscapes that can substantially promote agricultural growth while reducing irrigation needs.

Officials from both the U.S. and Israel hailed the collaboration as an example of the potential for collaborative innovation that can improve quality of life and boost economic vitality.

“Chicago’s worldwide leadership in water management continues to grow, as we invest in our water infrastructure, creating jobs for our residents and economic activity in our neighborhoods. I strongly support this partnership, and I look forward to working with leading institutions like BGU and the University of Chicago to create innovations and opportunities for the future,” said Emanuel.

The institutions have moved swiftly following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Chicago on March 8 to explore a research partnership that would innovate water production and purification technologies to meet a growing thirst for freshwater resources globally. Leading the efforts are Matthew Tirrell, the Pritzker Director of UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, and Moshe Gottlieb, BGU’s Frankel Professor of Chemical Engineering.

For its part, the Institute for Molecular Engineering will commit tens of millions of dollars to the molecular engineering of water resources over the next decade. The institute is pursuing the molecular engineering of water resources as one of five emerging research themes, with plans to hire up to six faculty members specializing in this area. BGU researchers will have a significant presence in Hyde Park to further facilitate the collaborations.

“The Institute for Molecular Engineering aims to bring molecular-level science to technological problems of global importance,” Tirrell said. “Water technology clearly meets that standard, and the institute brings new ideas for materials, membranes, biotechnologies and catalytic technologies, among other approaches, that could address major needs in this domain.”

Tirrell’s and Gottlieb’s teams met for two days in Israel in April to explore their mutual interests in water chemistry, materials science, flow in soils and other porous substances, microbiology and nanotechnology. The first day of meetings took place on BGU’s main campus in Be’er-Sheva. The researchers reconvened for a second day at BGU’s Sede Boqer campus, site of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.

A BGU contingent will pay a reciprocal visit to Chicago this autumn, following the final selection of their first collaborative projects, to participate in a workshop that will sharpen their research focus.

The Israeli government founded BGU with a mandate to spearhead the development of the Negev Desert. BGU has worked at the forefront of water-related research for more than four decades, having developed several innovative technologies in the field. Work at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research has helped make it possible for Israel to produce more than 60 percent of its freshwater needs by desalination.

Tirrell’s team includes researchers at Argonne, which UChicago manages for the U.S. Department of Energy. Argonne has assembled state-of-the-art infrastructure and gathered extensive scientific expertise for the study of clean water technologies. The laboratory’s water-research portfolio includes projects pertaining to wastewater discharges into Lake Michigan, the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and carbon tetrachloride contamination of surface and groundwater in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole have been prominent in bringing problems of water contamination to the attention of scientists and the public. MBL brings additional strengths in biological sciences and the marine environment to this developing partnership. UChicago and MBL recently signed a landmark affiliation, effective July 1, joining the leadership and scientific eminence of the two institutions, while bringing outstanding researchers together for innovative collaborations and education programs in microbial sciences, molecular engineering and related areas.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Autism and Intellectual Disability Incidence Linked with Environmental Factors
Although autism and intellectual disability have genetic components, environmental causes are thought to play a role.
Monday, March 17, 2014
International Technology Partnership to Focus on Water Problems
The University of Chicago and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev sign agreement that would create new water production and purification technologies for regions of the globe where fresh water resources are scarce.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Scientific News
Safer, Faster Way To Remove Pollutants From Water
Using nanoparticles filled with enzymes proves more effective than current methods.
Low Impact Fracking Fluid on Top at IChemE Global Awards
A novel fracturing fluid designed to make fracking greener.
Marine Invasive Species May Benefit From Rising CO2 Levels
Ocean acidification may well be helping invasive species of algae, jellyfish, crabs and shellfish to move to new areas of the planet with damaging consequences, according to the findings of a new report.
Game for Climate Adaptation
MIT-led project shows a new method to help communities manage climate risks.
Tufts Chemist Discovers Way to Isolate Single-crystal Ice Surfaces
Promises insights into climate, environment and age-old riddles, such as why no two snowflakes are alike.
Potential Indirect Effects of Humans on Water Quality
Newly studied class of water contaminants occur naturally, but are more prevalent in populated areas.
Rapid Method for Water, Air and Soil Pathogen Screening
Researchers at BGU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a highly sensitive, cost-effective technology for rapid bacterial pathogen screening of air, soil, water, and agricultural produce in as little as 24 hours.
First Results Describing Sick Sea Star Immune Response
Though millions of sea stars along the West Coast have perished in the past several years from an apparent wasting disease, scientists still don’t know why.
Microbe Sleuth
Tanja Bosak examines how life and the Earth evolved in tandem during their early history together.
The Age of Humans Controlling Microbes
Engineered bacteria could soon be used to detect environmental toxins, treat diseases, and sustainably produce chemicals and fuels.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos