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BGU and Chicago Universities Address Water Challenges

BGU and Chicago Universities Address Water Challenges

October 18, 2018

Desert & Water Research, Press Releases

A trilateral collaboration hosted by the University of Chicago (UChicago) on October 8, with researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Northwestern University, met to develop new ideas and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water-related problems.

Prof. Noam Weisbrod

The “Trilateral Workshop on Water Challenges and Solutions” included researchers in engineering, chemistry, math, economics, geology, law, and astronomy. Developing new solutions to these problems requires an interdisciplinary approach, and more than three dozen researchers from a wide range of fields gathered to brainstorm potential collaborations.

In this new partnership, $720,000 of seed money provided by the three universities will be used to fund new ideas. The three institutions have collaborated on water research since 2013, when UChicago and BGU launched the Water Research Initiative with Argonne National Laboratory to find new methods of water production and purification. In 2017, another smaller partnership was established between the Center for Water Research at Northwestern University and the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at BGU.

According to Prof. Noam Weisbrod, director of BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, “We are convinced that our collaborative research will lead to real breakthroughs in water sciences and technologies and assist in many pressing water-related challenges. Following the very successful and interesting workshop, teams from the three universities will work together to submit join proposals to tackle many of problems and new out-of-the-box ideas.”

“The three partner universities have an enormous amount of expertise related to water that we haven’t previously had the opportunity to link together,” says Prof. Aaron Packman, director of the Center for Water Research at Northwestern University. “This new collaborative program will enable us to draw on the best capabilities of our universities to improve water security in Israel, Chicago and around the world.”

During the workshop, researchers assembled in groups to discuss water challenges related to climate, energy, reverse osmosis, water purification, policy, and basic science research. Potential projects included:

  • Using cell phone data to track how water is collected in developing countries
  • Harnessing solar power to fill wells
  • Developing membranes that remove only the harmful salt ions from water
  • Creating new kinds of membranes for water purification
  • Using condensation to develop self-cleaning solar panels
  • Distributing lead filters to communities that are at risk for lead exposure in water

The workshop offered seed money for the projects to “give us an opportunity to do things we couldn’t have done before,” says Jim Skinner, Crown Family Professor of Molecular Engineering and director of IME’s Water Research Initiative at UChicago.


About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. Activities include showcasing BGU’s academic excellence and cutting-edge research through educational programs, events and informative communications. AABGU’s main purpose is to support Ben-Gurion’s vision and the university that bears his name by creating a community of Americans committed to improving the world tomorrow from the heart of the Israeli desert today.

Media Contact:
Andrew Lavin
A. Lavin Communications