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KAUST solar desalination technology MEDAD wins MEED Sustainability Medal 2020
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 02 - 2021

Solar-powered hybrid MEDAD spinoff, based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), has won the Sustainability Medal 2020 for being an "Innovative Hybrid Solar Desalination Cycle." The MEED Projects Awards ceremony that took place on 16 December 2020 in Dubai, UAE celebrates excellence in contribution to society and environment in different areas in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC).
"Gaining outstanding recognition in the GCC for a project that promotes environmental sustainability is a great honor for KAUST," said Distinguished Professor Donal Bradley, KAUST vice president for Research. "This KAUST-based, solar-powered desalination pilot plant exemplifies our focus on areas of global significance, including environment, water and energy, as we strive to enhance the welfare of society. I congratulate Dr. Shahzad and the MEDAD team on their wonderful achievement."
The MEDAD hybrid cycle was the Ph.D. project for Muhammad Wakil Shahzad in 2010 under the supervision of Kim Choon Ng, professor of environmental science and engineering at the Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division. The hybrid cycle was first demonstrated at the National University of Singapore before both Shahzad and Ng moved to KAUST in 2014. Shahzad, a postdoctoral fellow then, was assigned to lead on the design, fabrication, installation and testing of the MEDAD cycle pilot.
"We successfully tested 10,000 L/day MEDAD pilot at KAUST operated with 352m2 evacuated tube solar collectors installed on rooftop of building 2 at KAUST," Shahzad said.
One of the United Nations' sustainability development goals is to provide clean water and sanitation, which cannot be achieved without significant progress on sustainable water supplies in the future, which is at the heart of MEDAD's mission.
The hybrid MEDAD cycle desalinates seawater using solar energy at a temperature of 60 - 80 degrees Celsius using renewable solar energy that is abundantly accessible in Saudi Arabia. The hybridization of adsorption (AD) cycle with conventional multi effect desalination (MED)—hence the title MEDAD—can help to overcome the operational limitations of MED and boost the water production to almost two-fold at the same heat source temperature.
The hybrid MEDAD cycle has achieved a performance level of 20 percent of thermodynamic limit as compared to 10-13 percent of conventional desalination technologies. Accordingly, the water production cost from the MEDAD cycle is the lowest at $0.48/m3 compared to other distillation processes which averagely costs $1.201/m3.
Since leaving KAUST in 2019, Shahzad has landed a competitive position at Northumbria University, U.K. as a senior lecturer. However, he is still actively involved with the MEDAD project and its team and he applied for the MEED award while still at KAUST.
MEDAD collaborated with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in its desalination projects. The first 100 m3/day commercial scale project was commissioned in February 2017 at Solar Village, KACST, Riyadh, and it is working successfully with solar and an auxiliary boiler. At the same time, another MoU was signed with KACST for 2,000 m3/day to be installed at Yanbu at the Saline Water Conversion Corporation site.
MEDAD's desalination technology won the Aramco-GE Global Innovation Challenge award for seawater desalination in 2015. The award went to the lowest cost per cubic meter of water production. The KAUST-based WDRC has a solar-powered and fully automated desalination pilot plant facility that generates eight to 10 m3 of desalinated water per day. The facility occupies a laboratory space of 200 m2. — SG


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