Saturday, May 29, 2010

Intel and Viamaris (water desalination)

Thursday, we toured an Intel branch in Kiryat Gat and a water desalination plant owned by a compnay called Viamaris in Palmachim. We were not allowed to take any pictures at either of these sites, so we apologize for that.
We checked out of our hotel in Tel Aviv Thursday morning. We headed south to an Intel facility located in Kiryat Gat, Israel. Security at the facility entrance was very tight. Once we were through the gate we were given visitor badges and told to not take pictures. Our tour of the facility started with a presentation given by an Intel spokesperson. He showed us some videos outlining Intel's philosophy and policies. He then took us through what was actually done at Intel. Intel is the inventor of the microprocessor used in most computers, but today makes everything from graphics chips to integrated circuits, making them a world leader in chip design and manufacturing capability. After explaining what Intel actually manufactures and sells, he showed us a little about what Intel does for the environment and community through various outreach programs. The outreach programs include renovating playgrounds, installing safety devices in senior citizens' homes, and so on. They even have a full sized aquarium on site. Once the presentation was over, we were given a tour of the facility. In particular, we were shown clean rooms in which the parts were manufactured. The rooms were filled with people dressed from their shoulders to their toes in suits that resembled those of an astronaut. On their head they wore a hair cap and facemask. We were told that the suits have several layers and that each person was checked over before being allowed into the clean rooms. Inside the clean rooms automated carts zoomed around the ceiling bringing parts to various locations to be assembled. The whole scene was quite spectacular; Men and women working efficiently along side machines to manufacture a product commercially. In the case of contamination, all production stops and the workers attempt to systematically identify the source of contamination station by station. We also were shown how the various Intel products have developed over the years. It was interesting to see how the technology has evolved, in particular, how much smaller the devices have become. After our tour was over, we ate lunch and headed for a desalination plant located in Palmachim.

Palmachim is about 15 miles south of Tel Aviv on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The purpose of a desalination plant is to remove the salt and other contaminates in water to produce clean, drinkable, fresh water. When we arrived we were all given hard hats at the gate, and once again instructed that we were not allowed to take pictures. The plant is a full-scale industrial process plant owned by a company called Viamaris, which has a contract with the Israeli government. We were given a talk first by a Viamaris spokesperson who told us a little about the company's history and philosophy. The floor was then given to a process engineer who explained in detail how the process of desalination works. The plant uses a relatively new technology called reverse osmosis, which uses a semi-permeable membrane to separate the salt and the water. Reverse osmosis is typically less expensive than the typical thermal distillation, in which companies use heat to boil off the water to separate it from the salt. We were given a tour of the plant, which included a view into how each step in the process worked. At the end of the tour we were given a taste of the newly distilled water that comes out at the end of the process. The entire development was fascinating, and it was even more interesting to see how the engineers were able to make the process function at a macro scale in order to accommodate full-scale production. After the tour was over we returned our hard hats, boarded our bus, and headed for our new hotel in Be'er Sheva.