Saudi Arabian university KAUST invests €1m in CRANN

4 Feb 2011

Trinity College-based nanotech centre CRANN has attracted €1m in investment from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to focus on solving some of the technological issues on the path towards massive solar energy production.

The project, sponsored by KAUST, is worth €1m and will involve two senior researchers and three PhD students both at KAUST and TCD, and it will avail of the computational power of the KAUST supercomputer Sasheen.

The total solar energy absorbed on Earth in one year is double that which will ever be extracted from all non-renewable sources combined (petrol, natural gas, nuclear, etc). One hour of solar irradiation surpasses the world’s current annual energy consumption.  CRANN and KAUST are exploring how to efficiently harvest these enormous amounts of energy in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Prof John Boland, director of CRANN, said, “We are very excited about the collaboration between KAUST and CRANN and the work that is being done has huge potential benefits in addressing the challenge facing the world to find renewable and green sources of energy.

“As we celebrate Nanoweek, which aims to raise awareness of the contribution that nanoscience makes to the economy and society in general, it is important to highlight the importance of attracting non-exchequer funding.

Ireland sixth in the world for nanoscience

“Ireland was recently ranked sixth in the world for our work in nanoscience and this is crucial in increasing our competitiveness and will help increase the non-exchequer funding that we can attract, which will substantially increase the return on investment by the Government in nanoscience over the past decade.”

H.E. ambassador Abdulaziz Aldriss, ambassador of Saudi Arabia, said: “The collaboration between KAUST and CRANN is a further testament of the established and strengthened links between universities and research institutes in Saudi Arabia and Ireland and I would like to pay tribute to all those instrumental in establishing this ambitious partnership in the interest of delivering world-leading research and innovation.

“The government of Saudi Arabia acknowledges the critical role of research and development in both international industry and education, and has, therefore, placed a strong strategic focus on investment in research.

“I think we can all look forward to the developments and ultimate outcome of this particular collaborative research on solar energy conversion between KAUST and CRANN and indeed, future opportunities for student exchange and collaboration between our two countries,” Aldriss said.

The joint project aims at understanding the fundamental limitations of solar energy conversion, paving the way for a new generation of photovoltaic devices, more efficient and cheaper than those available. The computational tools developed in at CRANN are in fact so versatile that a much broader range of devices can be simulated, including photovoltaic cells, novel bio-sensors and chemical sensors.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years