Nanotechnology in Saudi Arabia: Market Report

Saudi Arabia is located in the Middle East, bordering the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. It covers a total area of 2,149,690 km2 and had a population of 26,534,504 as of 2012.

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy, and the government enforces stringent rules and control over major economic activities. Oil and petroleum account for about 90% of export earnings and 80% of government revenues. However, recently the government has been working towards increasing growth in the private sector by privatising power and telecommunications. The country is the world's leading producer of oil and it owns more than 20% of the world's proven oil reserves. The GDP of the nation in 2011 was reported to be $687.7 billion.

Nanotechnology Organisations

A brief introduction to the key nanotechnology-related organisation in Saudi Arabia is given below:

Center of Excellence of Nano-manufacuturing Applications (CENA) - The aim of this consortium is to promote advanced research in nano-processing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Arab World and Turkey. It works towards goals such as providing state-of-the-art facilities for researchers, financial scholarship packages for students and also works towards preventing the “brain-drain” phenomena from the region.

Nanotechnology Companies

Nanotechnology is a versatile field with a vast number of applications in a multiple industries. The major nanotechnology companies in Saudi Arabia are listed below along with a brief introduction to each of them.

Saudi Environmental Projects Company Ltd. (SEPEC) - SEPEC is a leading Saudi company with a wealth of experience in providing water desalination and water treatment solutions in addition to construction projects for municipal, industrial and domestic sectors ranging from design to construction of extensive water treatment facilities. SEPEC was founded in 1990 in Riyadh city. SEPEC has an exclusive agency for NANSULATE, a product that provides thermal insulation using nanotechnology.

Saudi Aramco - Not only is Saudi Aramco the state-owned oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, they are also a fully integrated, global petroleum and chemicals enterprise and a world leader in exploration, production, refining, distribution, shipping and marketing. They manage the world’s largest proven conventional crude oil and condensate reserves of 259.7 billion barrels. Saudi Aramco researchers are have access to an exclusive R&D center – EXPEC Advanced Research Center (ARC), through which the latest advances in nanotechnology in the oil industry are developed and used.

Silicon Valley for Nanotechnology - Silicon Valley for Nanotechnology is a Saudi/ Jordanian company. It was established to meet demands and objectives of the governments of the Middle East and North Africa that are willing to nationalise and implement the Nanotechnology developed locally in their countries. The company deals with MEMS and NEMS systems and was the first Arab company to enter into the field of Nanotechnology and MEMS systems. They deal with MEMS/NEMS systems.

Nanotechnology Education and Research

Saudi Arabia is home to a number of universities offering research and educational opportunities in the field of nanotechnology. Given below is a list of universities and academic institutions in Saudi Arabia that are involved in research covering distinct applications of nanoscience in concrete, smart textiles, and biomedical fields.

King Abdulaziz University Center of Nanotechnology (CNT) - CNT is a national center of excellence in the field of nanotechnology. It was established at King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Jeddah in 2006. They aim to be partners in the continuous development endeavor in Saudi Arabia and the Arabic region through implementation and technology transfer of Nanotechnology.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Center of Research Excellence in Nanotechnology (CENT) - CENT aims to be an internationally recognised leading research center that develops innovative research and cutting edge knowledge in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. CENT intends to be the platform through which King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) will develop a Nanotechnology Program that enables its scientists and faculty members to carry out world-class nanoscience and nanotechnology based research in areas of strategic importance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and support the same through teaching at KFUPM.

King Abdullah Institute for NANO Technology (KAIN) - KAIN aims to perform innovative research work and to develop nanotechnology through qualifying scientific specialised cadre, establishing effective societal partnerships and developing the technology necessary for building the national economy.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

  • Functional Nanomaterials & Devices - group research interests include the development of nanomaterials and devices targeting Emerging Electronics and Energy Harvesting and Storage Applications.  Current projects include development of nanomaterials (particularly oxides) for capacitive energy storage,  flexible and transparent electronics, nanoelectronics, and thermoelectric power generation.
  • Integrated Nanotechnology Laboratory - research is steered towards performance, energy and area efficiency, functionality, reliability, manufacturability, scalability and affordability of traditional and flexible electronics based integrated systems. Impact of our research is resonated in future generation computing including big data, cloud computation, cyber-physical systems and augmented reality, clean and readily available energy, and health care.
  • Nanostructured Functional Materials - in the NFM lab, new nanostructured materials are created by designed synthesis to provide a platform for developing novel applications. Of our particular interest are nanoporous (both inorganic and polymeric) materials which are characterized by large surface area, high porosity and uniform pores of molecular dimensions, and are very useful for applications in catalysis, separation, adsorption and gas storage.

Recent Developments

The 2nd Saudi International Nanotechnology Conference (2SINC) 2012 was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at the Conference Hall - Building 36 - KACST Headquarters. The event took place between November 11 and 13,  2012. The theme of the conference was “Nanotechnology innovation opportunities for the future”.

Professor Muhammad Mustafa Hussain and his team of researchers from the Integrated Nanotechnology Lab at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) are keen on finding sustainable and green solutions to saving energy in high-rise residential and commercial buildings in Saudi. They have come up with an innovative idea of integrating micro- to nanoscale thermoelectric materials with the window glasses to generate thermoelectricity based on the temperature differentials that exists between the hot outside and relatively cold inside. Their innovation was recognised at the 31st International Conference on Thermoelectrics (ICT), 2012, and the team was also awarded the KAUST chapter of 2012 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award, which is one of the most prestigious industry sponsored awards in field of sustainable energy.

Another team of researchers from KAUST have devised a high-performance microsized microbial fuel cell that incorporates an anode made from carbon nanotubes.

Researchers from King Abdulaziz University claim to have extracted nanoparticles of a substance called PMF701 from camel urine. These nanoparticles appear to attack cancer cells. Camel urine has been used for centuries to treat other ailments such as psoriasis and eczema.

Saudi Arabia will play host to the upcoming Kingdom Polymers & Plastic Summit in December 2013. One key conference topic is the future potential of nano-packaging materials.

Saudi Arabia spent 0.08% of GDP on research in 2009. This increased to 0.25% of GDP in 2012, with a GERD PPP of US$1.8 billion. While this commitment is still relatively small, they intend to increase the levels of spending on R&D to bring them in line with other global economies that are more innovation oriented.

Research and development does not currently seem to be a focus area for Saudi Arabia. While their commitment is still quite frugal, it is increasing, which means that opportunities may begin to open up which may both reduce the brain drain and open up opportunities for more nanotechnology research. However, to try and take any kind of leading role in nanotechnology, Saudi Arabia will need to accelerate their efforts very quickly.

References

  1. Heritage Foundation - Saudi Arabia
  2. Is camel urine a cure for cancer?
  3. Sustainable Design of High-Performance Microsized Microbial Fuel Cell with Carbon Nanotube Anode and Air Cathode
  4. A New Alternative Medicine can cause Selective Cell Death in Cancer Cells (PDF)
  5. Saudi Arabia Accounts for Majority of Regional Polymers Capacity in GCC
  6. Research and Development Expenditure (% of GDP)
  7. 2012 Global R & D Funding Forecast: R & D Spending Growth Continues While Globalization Accelerates

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