Public Release:  Ben-Gurion U. and UChicago announce partnership focused on water research

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Beer-Sheva, Israel, March 20, 2013 -- The University of Chicago and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have signed an agreement to collaborate on new water production and purification technologies for deployment in regions of the globe where fresh water resources are scarce.

BGU President Rivka Carmi and University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer signed the memorandum of understanding in Chicago on March 8. Located in the Negev desert, BGU is recognized as a world leader in water technologies and research in desert agriculture, water desalinization, water engineering, environmental hydrology, hydro-biology, and water resource economics.

"BGU has been at the forefront of advanced basic and applied water-related research for more than four decades and has developed a number of innovative technologies in the field," Prof. Carmi said. "The collaboration with the University of Chicago will result in the development of new technologies for the benefit of people all over the world."

UChicago and BGU researchers will meet next month in Beer-Sheva to begin discussing interdisciplinary collaborative water-related research projects of technical and societal significance. Joint activities may include the exchange of visiting faculty members, researchers and students; the development of funding proposals for collaborative work; and the creation of innovative commercial technologies and new business ventures.

"Increasing both the quantity and quality of water is one of the major engineering challenges of the 21st century," Prof. Zimmer said. "A collaborative research and technology center based in both Chicago and Beer-Sheva, focusing on the molecular aspects of water science and technology will result in a powerful new approach for addressing the various and pervasive challenges to the global water supply."

Leading the collaboration for BGU is Moshe Gottlieb, Frankel Professor of Chemical Engineering. "In this collaboration we intend to take advantage of the great strides achieved over the last decade in nanotechnology, materials science, biology, and chemistry at both institutions," says Gottlieb. "These new tools and insights afford a molecular-level approach to tackle an age-old human plight."

Leading the Chicago side of the collaboration is Prof. Matthew Tirrell, the Pritzker Director of UChicago's Institute for Molecular Engineering. Tirrell's team will include scientists from Argonne National Laboratory, which UChicago manages for the United States Department of Energy.

"Water is the most fundamental molecule for sustaining all forms of life, but it is in dramatically short supply in many parts of the world," Tirrell says. "Water in all parts of the world faces numerous threats, which in turn endanger human and economic health."

The dangers include increased demand driven by energy production, agricultural runoff, and depletion and contamination of aquifers by salt water and by industrial, organic and biological toxins.

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American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel's southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement, committed to sustainable development of the Negev. AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit http://www.aabgu.org .

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