Omar M. Yaghi, one of the world’s top chemists, is working to turn air into water. While there is nearly as much water in the atmosphere as in lakes and rivers on our planet, almost one-third of the world’s population lives in water stressed regions or suffers from a lack of clean water. Yaghi is working to solve this problem.
Yaghi is widely known for pioneering metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs), materials useful for hydrogen and methane storage, carbon capture and conversion, water harvesting from desert air, and catalysis. His invention of MOFs and COFs is helping to achieve cleaner air, cleaner energy, and cleaner water.
Yaghi’s creative development of using MOFs and COFs to harvest water from desert air is an excellent example of how a chemist can break traditional disciplinary boundaries and translate a basic science observation into an essential benefit for society. His group designed several MOF water harvesters prototypes and demonstrated their effectiveness in some of the driest deserts in the world, showcasing their potential to provide clean water anywhere at any time of the year, ultimately giving people water independence. The 2017 World Economic Forum cited the MOH water harvester as one of the top ten emerging technologies to change the world and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry named it one of the top 10 breakthroughs in chemistry two years later.
Yaghi is the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the Founding Director of the Berkeley Global Science Institute, and an elected US National Academy of Sciences member. He has been honored with numerous awards, including the Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize, the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, and many others.