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UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science Assesses Progress of Innovative Nanotechnology Project

  • Dr Abdulla Al Mandous: “Our First Cycle awardees have taken multiple approaches for rain enhancement technology that will establish UAE as a global leader for science research in water security
  • Visit focused on Dr. Linda Zou’s award-winning research at Masdar Institute to develop more effective cloud seeding materials using nanotechnology

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 9 October 2017 – The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s Strategic Direction Committee (SDC) visited Masdar Institute to assess the positive outcomes recorded from the university’s First Cycle-wining cloud seeding research project. Masdar Institute is a part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology.

The novel cloud seeding research project led by Dr. Linda Zou, Professor of Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, was awarded in January 2016. Her project explores the use of nanotechnology to engineer particles that can serve as nuclei for raindrop formation when used to seed clouds.

His Excellency Dr. Abdulla Al Mandous, Director of the National Center of Meteorology (NCM), said: “The SDC site visit highlighted the progress not only of Dr. Zou’s research project over the past 18 months, months, but also the substantial impact her research project will have on this scientific field. All the ambitious and innovative projects we are currently supporting illustrate the UAE’s leading global role in catalyzing new global scientific and technological networks through creativity and innovation.”

The NCM manages the Program, which was launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs of the UAE as an internationally-recognized initiative offering an annual grant of US$5 million to be shared by up to five winning research proposals. Providing continuous technical support, data, logistics, facilities and advice to all the awardees, the NCM oversees the Program’s role in global research and development. The UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science’s Secretariat manages and administers the delivery of each awardee’s project according to an agreed timescale, provides strategic direction, and evaluates the progress of awards through regular reports and site visits. In addition, following the instructions of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs, a factory based in Abu Dhabi, has been recently established to product rain enhancement burners and production lines should be operational by 2018.

The project assessment took place over three days and sought to evaluate the progress of Dr. Zou’s research since being awarded the First Cycle funding in January 2016, and maximize the research’s potential by addressing challenges and opportunities faced.

Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science, said: “Through this site visit, the SDC sought to assess how Dr Zou’s project has advanced rain enhancement technology and ensure that the project’s aims are successfully achieved within the initial timeframe. The excellent progress made by Dr. Zou confirms that the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science is having a significant impact in terms of enabling advanced research in the field.”

Dr Zou’s ground-breaking project has already led to innovative micron-sized cloud seeding materials being designed and fabricated. Since the project began, her team’s experiments have involved coating a pure salt crystal with titanium dioxide to enhance the condensation and water droplet formation process. In addition, Dr. Zou has collaborated with the Russian High-Mountain Geophysical Institute for cloud chamber experiments. The cloud chamber results demonstrated that, at 100% humidity condition, the novel seeding materials formed 300% larger water droplets than those of pure salt usually used. The formation of such large sized water droplets is crucial to successful rainfall enhancement. The breakthrough success of Dr Zou’s research project is demonstrated by the team’s filing of a worldwide patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in February this year for a new application of nanotechnology to cloud seeding.

Dr Zou commented: “This strategy was the first effort to design nano-structured materials for rain enhancement. These particles can be applied to broader cloud conditions with increased chance of rainfall. I am very grateful for the exceptional support provided by the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science and the National Center of Meteorology.”

This year’s Third Cycle call for research proposals led to 201 submissions, representing 710 scientists and researchers affiliated to 316 institutions spread across 68 countries on five continents. The awardees of the Third Cycle of the Program will be honored at an exclusive ceremony in January 2018 in Abu Dhabi.