Global Affairs

University of Chicago, Ben-Gurion University “Crafting Radical New Approaches” to Address Water Scarcity

A joint project between scientists at both the University of Chicago and Ben-Gurion University are “crafting radical new approaches” to water technologies, according to a report today in The Chicago Tribune.

One project uses a common inkjet printer to apply layers of chemicals to a water filter to repel bacteria and keep the filter clog-free. Another turns radioactive isotopes into tracking devices to trace water movement through aquifers, a development that could lead to the discovery of vast new strata of groundwater. Still another effort strives to create filtering membranes that operate on a molecular level, using electrically charged, cilia-like hairs to repel filter-fouling microbes. The goal is to complete research by the latter part of 2015.

Every experiment has representation from both the University of Chicago and Ben-Gurion. The University of Chicago brings to the collaboration its expertise in molecular engineering, while Ben-Gurion brings its experience of transforming water research into real-life applications in a water-starved nation.

For both universities, the collaboration represents an opportunity to parlay their top-shelf know-how into potential solutions for one of mankind’s most pressing priorities.

Israel has become a global  leader in water technologies, with nations around the world—including Great Britain, China, the United States and Malawi—benefiting from Israel advances.

One Israeli company, Water-Gen, creates drinking water out of the air. In a profile of Water-Gen’s founder, Aryeh Kohavi, Ha’aretz reported today:

Since founding Water-Gen in 2009, Arye Kohavi has preferred to operate from Israel with a very low profile. He does not avoid the media limelight, but it has come mostly from the public relations side of his biggest customer: The Israel Defense Forces. Unlike Israel’s most innovative high-tech entrepreneurs, Kohavi has stayed well under the radar even after the magazine Fast Company named Water-Gen one of its 50 most innovative companies in 2014. Water-Gen also received the European Technology Innovation Leadership Award for 2014 from market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

But one week in November everything changed. Foreign Policy magazine chose Kohavi as one of its 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014. “It was a bit of a shock,” he says.

According to Ha’aretz, a Georgian-Jewish billionaire, Mikhael Mirilashvil, “invest[ed] tens of millions of dollars” in Water-Gen at about the same time Kohavi received the recognition.

[Photo: The Boston Globe / YouTube ]