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21 February 2024

Masdar Institute files patent for innovative cloud seeding material

By Wam

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, has announced that its research team, one of the inaugural recipients of the US$5 million grant from the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science last year, has filed a provisional patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO.

The research team has developed an innovative cloud seeding material using nanotechnology.

By filing a patent, they are bringing that material into the pathway for commercialisation and supporting Masdar Institute’s goal of bolstering the UAE's local intellectual property, a key measure of the country’s innovation drive.

It is also a significant milestone towards achieving greater water security in the UAE, as rainfall enhancement via cloud seeding can potentially increase rainfall between 10% and 30%.

Masdar Institute Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Linda Zou, is the principal investigator of this research project, and one of the first scientists in the world to explore the use of nanotechnology to enhance a cloud seeding material’s ability to produce rain.

"Using nanotechnology to accelerate water droplet formation on a typical cloud seeding material has never been researched before. It is a new approach that could revolutionise the development of cloud seeding materials and make them significantly more efficient and effective," Dr. Zou remarked.

Offering a comprehensive overview of Dr. Zou’s progress, Alya Al Mazroui, Manager of the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science, said, "The programme presents a unique opportunity to use advanced research methods for studying atmospheric processes in arid regions, where its understanding is most important to ensure water security globally. We are convinced that Masdar Institute’s project, under Dr. Linda Zou’s supervision, will advance rain enhancement science through innovative seeding agents."

Dr. Deon E. Terblanche, Director, Atmospheric Research and Environment Branch, World Meteorological Organisation, WMO, serves as a member of the international scientific advisory committee of the UAE Rain Enhancement Programme Award. He believes that the novelty of Dr. Zou’s research has great potential to drive innovation in the field of rain enhancement.

"Dr. Linda Zou of the Masdar Institute is bringing a fresh and exciting contribution to the field of rainfall enhancement. Her team's research into the development of new seeding materials, taking advantage of nanotechnology, holds exciting possibilities and is followed with considerable interest," Dr. Terblanche remarked.

Conventional cloud seeding materials are small particles such as pure salt crystals. These tiny particles act as the core around which water condenses in the clouds, stimulating water droplet growth.

Once the air in the cloud reaches a certain level of saturation, it can no longer hold in that moisture, and rain falls.

Thus, cloud seeding mimics what naturally occurs in clouds, but enhances the process by adding particles that can stimulate and accelerate the condensation process.

Dr. Zou and her collaborators, Dr. Mustapha Jouiad, Principal Research Scientist in Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department, post-Doctoral researcher, Dr. Nabil El Hadri and PhD student, Haoran Liang, explored ways to improve the process of condensation on a pure salt crystal by layering it with a thin coating of titanium dioxide.

The team found that the titanium dioxide coating improved the salt’s ability to adsorb and condense water vapor over 100 times compared to a pure salt crystal.

Such an increase in condensation efficiency could improve a cloud’s ability to produce more precipitation, making rain enhancement operations more efficient and effective.

The research will now move to the next stage of simulated cloud and field testing in the future.

The UAE government has recognised the potential of rain enhancement to support water security and established the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science to increase rain enhancement research in the UAE and arid and semi-arid regions across the world.

Awardees of the Programme’s Second Cycle grant of US$5 million were announced last week during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2017.

They include Prof. Giles Harrison of the University of Reading (UK), Prof. Hannele Korhonen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), and Dr. Paul Lawson of American firm, Spec Inc.