Alternative Water Resources Prize - 8th Award


Dr. Omar Yaghi (University of California, Berkeley) & Dr. Evelyn Wang (MIT).

Dr. Yaghi and Dr. Wang have invented a device using an innovative porous metal-organic framework (MOF) developed by Dr Yaghi that captures water from the atmosphere using natural sunlight. The device, which was constructed according to Dr. Yaghi’s vision with the assistance of a team at MIT led by Dr. Wang, is capable of harvesting 2.8 liters of water per kilogram of MOF daily at relative humidity levels as low as 20%, operating passively without any power input, aside from ambient sunlight at a flux of less than 1 sun (1 kilowatt per square meter). The ease with which MOFs can be designed, made, and modified by Yaghi bodes well for their commercialization and widespread use for water harvesting.

Winner Profiles

Dr. Omar Yaghi

Dr. Yaghi is the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry, University of California-Berkeley and Senior Faculty Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is also Co-Director of both the Kavli Energy Nanosciences Institute and the California Research Alliance by BASF at UC Berkeley. He is the Founding Director of the Berkeley Global Science Institute, College of Chemistry, UC Berkeley, Director of the joint King Abdulaziz Center for Science and Technology-UC Berkeley collaborative science center, and Director of the Carbon Capture and Conversion Research Group at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia.


• 1990 - Ph.D., Chemistry, Best Thesis Award, University of Illinois-Urbana, Illinois.
• 1985 - B.S., Chemistry, Cum Laude; State University of New York-Albany, New York.

Selected Awards:

2017 - Kuwait Prize in Basic Sciences, Kuwait
2017 - Albert Einstein World Award of Science, World Cultural Council
2017 - Star of Science Award, Jordan
2017 - Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry International Award, Japan
2017 - King Abdullah II Order of Distinction of the First Class, Jordan
2017 - Royal Society of Chemistry Spiers Memorial Award, United Kingdom
2017 - Bailar Medal, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States
2016 - TÜBA Academy Prize in Basic and Engineering Sciences, Turkey
2016 - Mack Award, Ohio State University, United States
2015 - Mustafa Prize in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Iran
2015 - UNICAM Award, University of Camerino, Italy
2015 - King Faisal International Prize in Science, Saudi Arabia
2013 - China Nano Award, China
2012 - World Class Talent 1000 Professorship, Beijing Institute of Technology, China
2011 - Top 2 most cited chemist worldwide, ISI Thomson 2001-present
2010 - Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize, United Kingdom
2009 - World Class Professor, KAIST, South Korea
2009 - Izatt-Christensen International Award in Macrocyclic Chemistry, United States
2009 - American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials, United States
2008 - AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, United States
2007 - Materials Research Society Medal Sole Recipient, United States
2007 - Deans Recognition Award, UCLA, United States
2007 - DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award for Outstanding Achievements, United States
2006 - H. N. McCoy Award for the greatest discovery in chem. Sci., UCLA, United States
2006 - Popular Science magazine’s Brilliant 10 scientists and engineers, United States
2004 - Sacconi Medal, Italian Chemical Society, Division of Inorganic Chemistry, Italy
2002 - Chem Chair’s Excellence in Research Award, University of Michigan, United States
2002 - 3M Faculty Award, United States
1999 - Graduate College Mentor Award, Arizona State University, United States
1998 - Exxon Award, ACS-Solid State Chem. Division, United States
1997 - NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award, United States
1995 - Exxon Education Foundation Award, United States



Dr. Evelyn Wang

Dr. Wang is the Gail E. Kendall Professor and Associate Department Head for Operations in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also the Associate Director of the Solid State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion (S3TEC) Center.


• 2006 - Ph.D., Stanford University.
• 2001 - M.Sc., Stanford University.
• 2000 - B.Eng., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Selected Awards:

2016 - ASME Electronics Packaging and Photonics Division Women of the Year Award
2014 - Best Paper Award and Best Poster Award, ITherm
2012 - ASME Bergles-Rohsenow Young Investigator Award in Heat Transfer
2012 - ONR Young Investigator Award
2012 - Best Paper Award (First Prize), ASME Micro and Nano Heat and Mass Transfer International Conference
2011 - AFOSR Young Investigator Award
2010 - Best Paper Award, ITherm
2008 - DARPA Young Faculty Award

Acceptance Speech

unhq300x300Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It’s a great pleasure and an honor to be awarded The Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water in the Category of Alternative Water Resources. I want to express my appreciation to the officers, staff and selection committee members for their work on our behalf.

At a time when our planet is crying for help, the visionary principles behind this prize are more important than ever. Although more than 70% of our planet is water, almost 50% of the world population lives in water stressed regions or have no access to clean water. Fortunately, there is a potential solution. It is harvesting water from air. The earth atmosphere holds as much water as we have in lakes and rivers on our planet. This remains an untapped natural resource because of lack of materials capable of plucking water from air in an energy efficient manner.

25 years ago, we embarked on a program to change the way we think about and make new materials. We discovered ways of stitching atoms and molecules with extraordinary precision to make materials in numbers and varieties never experienced before. This chemistry we call reticular chemistry has led to hundreds of thousands of new materials with millions of possibilities being pursued. These new materials are metal-organic frameworks (MOFs): Their structures are beautiful and their interior can be designed to seek water from air, store it in the pores, and concentrate it. By applying only ambient sunlight to such MOFs, water emerges from the pores that can be collected as pure liquid water.

This is a revolution in the making and one we are exploiting to its fullest potential. Considering my childhood experience with lack of water where our home only received running water once a week or sometimes once every two weeks for only 6 hrs, it is especially touching to me to be standing here to receive your recognition. My current and former students deserve much of the credit because of their resilience in chartering the unknown world of materials. I want to acknowledge the support of Prince Dr. Turki Saud Mohammad Al Saud and King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology’s collaboration on this project.

In closing, I wish to express my deep appreciation for your visionary support of an important issue profoundly affecting the lives of people and the health of our planet.

Omar M. Yaghi
October 29, 2018


unhq300x300Thank you very much to the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water selection committee for this great honor and recognition: the Alternative Water Resources Prize.

I grew up in southern California, where I was exposed to severe droughts at an early age. This made me appreciate how essential water is in all of our daily lives.

As many of you know, 844 million people lack easy access to safe drinking water.

In our work, we have developed a new way to harvest water from air. We’ve demonstrated a system that would work in the world's driest areas. While this is still a proof-of-concept, this is an important first step towards helping solve water scarcity.

First, I would like to thank my student Hyunho Kim and Postdocs Sameer Rao and Shankar Narayanan, who conceived, designed, and constructed the device. In addition would like to thank Professor Omar Yaghi, who created the metal organic frameworks to make the concept possible. Finally, I would like to thank the awards committee for recognizing the potential of this technology.

We all hope that someday people everywhere will have access to clean drinking water.

Thank you again.

-- Evelyn Wang

Winning Work

[1] H. Furukawa, F. Gándara, Y.-B. Zhang, J. Jiang, W. L. Queen, M. R. Hudson, O. M. Yaghi. Water Adsorption in Porous Metal-Organic Frameworks and Related Materials. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2014, 136, 4369-4381.

[2] H. Kim, S. Yang, S. R. Rao, S. Narayanan, E. A. Kapustin, H. Furukawa, A. S. Umans, O. M. Yaghi, E. N. Wang. Water Harvesting from Air with Metal-Organic Frameworks Powered by Natural Sunlight. Science, 2017, 356, 430-434.

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