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16 April 2024

NCM launches nanomaterials testing campaign in cloud seeding operations

Photo: WAM


National Centre of Meteorology, NCM, has launched nanomaterials testing campaign in cloud seeding operations through the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science, that investigates the efficiency of unique and innovative new cloud seeding materials through flights and testing that took place from Al Ain Airport over the Northern and Eastern parts of the UAE.

Professor Linda Zou, a Professor at Khalifa University and one of the three awardees of the Programme’s First Cycle, tests-core and shell composite nanomaterial for its effectiveness as cloud condensation nuclei by dispersing the material into clouds. Currently, a custom-designed Learjet research aircraft equipped with sophisticated sensors and measurement probes is being utilised to gather data of the cloud components which is led by the National Centre of Meteorology, NCM, in cooperation with global experts in the field.

Launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE in early 2015 and managed by the NCM, the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science is an ambitious initiative of global scope designed to stimulate rain enhancement research and accelerate water security through international cooperation in scientific research and development.

Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of the NCM & the President of the Regional Association II in the Asia Region, commented, "Thanks to the constant support of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science continues to bolster its global reputation as a leader in its field. I am delighted that the highly creative work undertaken by Professor Zou’s team has progressed to the extent that the groundbreaking materials developed are ready for field testing and potential large-scale production. This result demonstrates how NCM through the Program is succeeding in attracting significant participation from leading international scientific experts and helping to boost water security for those at risk around the world."

This campaign is an important part of the implementation and testing plan of the NCM, which consists of a titanium dioxide nanoparticle layer coated on the salt crystals. The ground-breaking project has already led to innovative hydrophilic and hygroscopic cloud seeding materials being designed and fabricated. Experimental results obtained so far through laboratory testing and analysis suggest that this material has a much higher ability to initiate condensation of water vapour and droplet growth in the clouds than the salt crystals that are currently used for rain enhancement in the UAE.

The originality of Professor Zou’s research project is demonstrated by the filing of two worldwide patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO, in 2017 and 2018 for a new application of cloud seeding through nanotechnology. Now the technology has been moved from laboratory into the scale-up process. Based on production trials of the nanomaterial using dry particle coating process by an American manufacturing and R&D company specialising in particle technology, the nanomaterial could potentially be cost-effective when produced on a large scale.

Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement, said, "The success of Professor Zou’s team’s innovative project demonstrates that the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science is already bearing fruit in terms of generating new knowledge with real-world applications. We are continuing to position the UAEREP as a focal point for productive scientific and technological exchange between some of the world’s leading experts in this field."

The research campaign is being carried out in collaboration with experts from the NCM. In addition, Dr Paul Lawson, a Programme Second Cycle awardee, and his team from SPEC Incorporated in the United States will also contribute to the campaign along with Dr Deon Terblanche, a former Director of Research at the World Meteorological Organisation, WMO.

Professor Zou said, "Nanotechnology opens up the possibility of engineering unique cloud seeding particles to make the process of water condensation and rain precipitation more efficient. I am very grateful for the support given by the NCM and the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science and the immensely important contribution they have made to accelerating new research in this field and unlocking the exciting potential of nanomaterials for cloud seeding."