How Unwanted Immune Responses are Prevented

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How Unwanted Immune Responses are Prevented

Technion researchers have discovered a mechanism that may prevent the immune system from “going haywire” following a false alarm

Researchers in the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine have deciphered a mechanism that plays a key role in control of the immune system, preventing it from “going haywire” following a false alarm. The study was published in the Journal of Immunology, and was recommended by the editorial board as a top read.

Authors Assistant Professor Debbie Yablonski and doctoral student Enas Hallumi focused on the role of the adaptor protein Gads in controlling the activity of T cells, which are an essential part of the immune system. Their main finding was that this protein serves as a kind of gate or barrier that prevents the immune system from launching an unnecessary attack. T cells are the “foot soldiers of the immune system.” When the body is attacked by an infection, tumor, etc., these cells multiply rapidly, attack the invader, and even mobilize other cells in the body to help them in the attack.

T cell function can be impaired in two main ways: as a result of hypoactivity or hyperactivity. As the term implies, hypoactivity causes a situation in which the body fails to attack the invader, and thus, development of the disease will not be prevented. By contrast, hyperactivity is liable to lead to a chain reaction that is harmful to the body, for example by creating an autoimmune disease or a cytokine storm – a term that rose to prominence during the current pandemic.

The researchers found evidence that an adaptor protein called Gads may be able to prevent a chain reaction of this kind from being initiated. In this sense, Gads serves as a gate that prevents an immune response for as long as the T cells have not been activated. The researchers also found that when the cells are activated by an invader – a virus, tumor, etc. – Gads is “tagged” by the addition of a certain chemical group. This occurs only when two other proteins (LAT and SLP-76) bind to Gads simultaneously to form a multimolecular complex. This binding action opens the gate and activates a T cell so that it may attack the invader. If, on the other hand, only one of the two proteins binds with Gads, the attack will not be launched. According to Prof. Yablonski, “In the present study, we discovered a mechanism that developed in the course of evolution to prevent false alarms, meaning a situation in which the body’s immune response spirals out of control and is liable to harm the organism itself by creating inflammation and other disorders.”

 About the authors:

Dr. Debbie Yablonski is a faculty member at the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine (preclinical staff) and a member of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion. She was born in the U.S. and completed her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at San Francisco.

Enas Hallumi grew up in Kafr Manda, completed her bachelor’s degree at Ben-Gurion University and her master’s degree at the Technion, under Dr. Yablonski’s supervision. Dr. Yablonski is also Enas’s supervisor as a Ph.D. student.

The article was sponsored by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), the Colleck Research Fund, the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion, the Volkswagen Foundation, and the United States – Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF).

Click here for the paper in Journal of Immunology

The Technion is Teaching Microbes Their Letters

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The Technion is Teaching Microbes Their Letters

Assistant Professor Ramez Daniel

In a recent breakthrough, scientists from the Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering were able to achieve recognition of specific geometric patterns – for example, letters – by engineered microbe colonies imitating an artificial neural network. The scientists’ method relies on a modification of the way communication occurs within microbe colonies in nature. The study, led by Dr. Ximing Li and Assistant Professor Ramez Daniel, was published in Nature Communications.

The interest of Prof. Daniel’s lab lies in synthetic biology, specifically in generating biological circuits, in essence combining the principles of biology and electronics. Like electronic switches that can be turned on and off, cells are engineered to “turn on” and perform a function, for example fluorescence, in response to a particular stimulus. Using this technique, the group has already engineered biological sensors that recognise the presence of arsenic and other poisons in water, or the presence of blood in urine.

Dr. Ximing Li

But cells are capable of more complex functions than a simple yes/no switch. Microbial colonies in nature are capable of communication within the colony. For example, they may respond differently when they are alone and when there are many of them together. This phenomenon, called “quorum sensing,” is also at play for example when our immune system mobilizes against an infection – information is passed regarding what the pathogen is, how much of a response is required, and more. One cell alone might be “dumb,” but the colony is “smart.” It is this phenomenon that Prof. Daniel’s group utilized in order to increase the algorithmic complexity of the task by a factor, and, for the first time, generate a biological circuit acting as an artificial neural network, capable of performing the relatively complex task of pattern recognition. Its building blocks: engineered E. coli bacteria.

L-R: Assistant Professor Ramez Daniel and Dr. Ximing Li

Geometric patterns are a proof of concept of what biological circuits acting as an artificial neural network can do. In the future, we might see bioengineered systems monitoring toxins, diagnosing cancer, and being used in tissue regeneration. We might even have biological computers. It is interesting to observe how synthetic biology, seeking to imitate electronics in biological systems, has come a full circle, creating a likeness of an artificial neural network, which is of course inspired by the human brain – itself a biological system.

Prof. Daniel started working on biological computing during his postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), initially on analog computation. Biological circuits acting as an artificial neural network are a novel development and a conceptual advancement in the same field. It was made possible with the assistance of Associate Professor Netanel Korin, also from the Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Li is a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Daniel’s laboratory. She completed her Ph.D. in computational neuroscience at the University of Ohio.

Click here for the paper in Nature Communications

A Beacon of Tolerance

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A Beacon of Tolerance
On May 24, the Technion awarded Ph.D. diplomas to 199 new graduates. During the ceremony, Technion President Professor Uri Sivan said, “leadership and personal accountability are the most effective and important responses to the challenges and difficulties that the events of recent days have repeatedly highlighted”

Ph.D. ceremony at the Technion

On May 24, the Technion awarded Ph.D. diplomas to 199 graduate students in a festive and moving ceremony at the Kellner Amphitheater. The ceremony was attended by the new graduates, their families, Technion management, faculty deans, and staff.

Approximately 43% of new Ph.D. graduates are women, a new record, and a significant increase over previous years. Most of the graduates (124) are native Israeli, and the rest are from all over the world, including the U.S., Canada, France, Austria, Ukraine, Uruguay, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, India and China.

The faculties with the highest number of graduates are the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine (27), Civil and Environmental Engineering (19), and Physics (16); 205 supervisors oversaw the doctoral candidates throughout their studies. Overseeing the supervisors is Head of the Faculty and Dean of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Professor Marcelle Machluf, whose five students were among those receiving a Ph.D. degree during the ceremony.

 Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan: “This is a celebration for all of you, who today can add ‘Dr.’ to your name, a celebration for your families who have accompanied you along the way and a celebration for us, your teachers. We’ve accompanied you on the long road, taught you what we know, and just as importantly, we’ve learned from you. We have no doubt that you have acquired the best professional tools here. If you also know how to deal with the professional dilemmas you come across in social, environmental and ethical contexts, if you are a beacon of tolerance, equality and empathy, and if you continue to ask questions – then we have done our job.”

Dean of the Graduate School, Prof. Dan Givoli

Dean of the Graduate School Professor Dan Givoli: “I have always believed that the two most important factors that impact the Technion’s prosperity are faculty members and doctoral students. You and your supervisors are the research foundations of the Technion.”

Prof. Givoli also presented some data related to the current cohort: “One-third of the graduates took the direct Ph.D. track; three of the graduates are new immigrants, who immediately began their Ph.D. research at the Technion, in 2016; two graduates are a married couple – Dr. Ekhlas Homede Abo Jabal and Dr. Mohammad Abo Jabal – who completed their studies at the Technion and now teach at the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT) in China. The ratio of supervisors to students was very high, because many of them had more than one supervisor – a result of blurring boundaries between the disciplines and strengthening the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research.”

Dr. Gil Wang of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering speaking on behalf of the new graduates

This trend is reflected in the research of Dr. Gil Wang of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who gave the valedictory speech on behalf of the new graduates. Dr. Wang completed his Ph.D. under the supervision of three Technion faculty members: Professor Yiska Goldfeld, Professor Nitai Drimer and Professor Yehiel Rosenfeld.

“At the Technion, I was exposed to the heterogeneous, diverse, Israeli society, rich in colors and beliefs,” said Dr. Wang at the ceremony. “I look at the Technion – at us – and it gives me hope and fills me with optimism. The Technion model, which emphasizes perseverance, hard work and constant pursuit of excellence, makes any polarization in Israeli society irrelevant.”

Dr. Wang added that some of his peers “will continue their research here and overseas, some will go into the industry, others will go into teaching, and others to consulting, management, and startups; but all fellow graduates will continue to lead and excel because this is their way, this is the Technion way.”

“Leadership and personal accountability are the most effective response”

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan at the head of the academic procession and speaking at the ceremony

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan said: “In recent weeks, we’ve learned that the Technion plays a major role in dealing with both external and internal threats. The external crisis highlighted the extensive technological role Technion graduates played, and still play. But I want to focus on the other role of the Technion, as a factor in the healing of society’s divisions. Since its inception, the Technion has championed equality and tolerance. For 100 years, it has maintained an apolitical identity and has given male and female students the opportunity to live and learn in an atmosphere of tolerance, equality and mutual respect, as part of our social commitment. We expect you to continue in this way. Leadership and personal accountability are the most effective and important response to the challenges and difficulties that the events of recent days have repeatedly highlighted.”

 The youngest graduate

Dr. Arik Girsault

Our youngest new graduate is Arik Girsault, who completed his Ph.D. at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering under the supervision of Professor Amit Meller. Dr. Girsault, 28, holds a dual French and Swiss citizenship, and is likely to soon be granted Israeli citizenship as well.

He was born in Paris, the son of a Swiss businessman and a French lawyer, and spent a large part of his childhood and youth moving from city to city due his parents’ work. He studied at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, from which he received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Life Sciences and Bioengineering. As he neared the end of his M.Sc. program, “some of my professors recommended that I continue studying toward a Ph.D. at the Technion, which fit in perfectly with my Zionist sentiments,” he said. “I wanted to spend time in Israel.”

He arrived at the Technion and met with some of the staff members from the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering. He based his decision on his impression of the supervisor and the students in the lab. For 4.5 years, he worked on his major project, under Prof. Meller’s supervision: the development of an advanced microscope for monitoring intracellular biomolecular processes at high temporal resolution. According to Prof. Meller, “Arik was an outstanding multidisciplinary student. He developed high skills in building a STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) optical microscope, in preparing complex biological samples, and in computerized information processing using software that he himself developed.”

Dr.  Girsault devoted the little free time he had during his research to playing on the Technion tennis team and to reading books on Jewish thought. After completing his degree, he returned to visit his parents in Switzerland, but that is by no means his final destination. Dr. Girsault decided to make “Aliya” and has already completed most of the formal arrangements. And what will he be doing here? “For the time being, all options are open – academia, industry, everything – but I have a feeling that I will be deciding in favor of the startup world, which seems challenging and interesting, and there is nowhere better than Israel to do this.”

Dr. Tirza Lauterman

The oldest graduate is Dr. Tirza Lauterman, 58, who completed her thesis under the supervision of Professor Rakefet Ackerman of the Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. Dr. Lauterman first came to the Technion in 1981, and after completing a B.Sc. in Information Systems Engineering at the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, she enlisted in the Navy, where she served for many years. Over the years, she advanced through the ranks, and her last position was Head of the Information Systems Branch of the Navy. In 2007, she retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

In 2010, nearly 30 years after she began her undergraduate studies, she began studying toward her master’s degree that continued into a Ph.D. Her research was in the field of problem solving, and specifically the first impressions of people on encountering a problem and the consequences of this impression on coping with the problem.

“After much research, we have come to the conclusion that first impressions determine a lot, just as they do with meeting people, and it significantly affects the time and effort that they will invest in solving the problem, as well as the final answer that comes after deep thought,” she said. “Acknowledging the existence of primary judgment is important for understanding engineering problems, and it also affects how tests and challenges are designed. If we design them in a way that will create confidence in the person’s ability to solve the problem, we will improve the person’s chances of solving it, and on the other hand, if we transmit an exaggerated impression of ease, the person might waste time trying in vain.”

Dr. Lauterman currently teaches at the Technion and at the Open University, and in the coming academic year she will also begin teaching at Bar Ilan University. She is married, a mother of three, and a grandmother.

Technion and Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, one of Latin America’s largest hospitals, sign MOU to support student exchange, collaborative research, and clinical trials

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Technion and Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, one of Latin America’s largest hospitals, sign MOU to support student exchange, collaborative research, and clinical trials

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo, Brazil, establishing a three-year collaboration between the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Brazilian hospital, one of Latin America’s largest. The MOU will support student exchange, clinical trials, and collaborative research projects between the two institutions.

(L-R) Shaul Shashua, a member of the Friends of the Technion in Brazil, Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan and Technion Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development Prof. Alon Wolf

The ceremony took place via video conferencing on May 6, and the MOU was signed by Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan and President of the Albert Einstein Hospital, Dr. Sidney Klajner.

(L-R) Shaul Shashua, Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan and Prof. Alon Wolf

Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein specializes in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, surgery, and neurology. The hospital, which was founded by the Jewish community of Brazil 66 years ago, was named as the best hospital in Brazil in 2020 by Newsweek. As part of the collaboration, students studying at the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine will go to the hospital each year for clinical rounds – which most students typically do in hospitals in Israel; similarly, students studying at the hospital in Brazil will be able to do the clinical rotation in the affiliated hospitals of the Technion Faculty of Medicine. In some cases, graduate students studying at the Albert Einstein Hospital will be allowed to spend an extended period at the Technion Faculty of Medicine and its affiliated hospitals.

The connection between the Technion and the hospital was made through Shaul Shashua, a member of the Friends of the Technion in Brazil. The ceremony was also attended by Technion Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development Prof. Alon Wolf; President of the Friends of the Technion Society in Brazil Salomao Luspa; Prof. Dr. Luiz Vicente Rizzo, VP of R&D at the Albert Einstein Hospital; and Prof. Alexandre Holthausen Campos. From the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine at the Technion attended: The Dean, Prof. Elon Eisenberg; Prof. Yaron Har-Shai, Vice Dean for Strategic Development; Prof. Simone Engelender, senior researcher; and others.

“The Technion and Albert Einstein are two institutions focused on the betterment of people’s lives, no matter where they live, no matter which language they speak, and no matter what their beliefs are,” Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan said at the signing ceremony. “The essence of our collaboration agreement is bettering the lives of people by promoting and disseminating knowledge.”

President of the Albert Einstein Hospital, Dr. Sidney Klajner: “Our hospital symbolizes the value of saving lives, which is so important in Jewish tradition. Albert Einstein was founded on four Jewish precepts: mitzva, refua, chinuch and tzedakah (good deeds, healing, education, charity). It is very exciting to be here at this moment of signing an agreement between two institutions that share a common aspiration to improve human life in Brazil and Israel.”

Dean of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Elon Eisenberg: “The hospital fully understands the importance of inter-institutional cooperation in promoting science and education in medicine. I look to the future with hope and am confident that this is the beginning of an important scientific and educational relationship.”

Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein representatives after signing the agreement

Prof. Yaron Har-Shai, Deputy Dean of Strategic Development at the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine: “In science, it is impossible to move forward without cooperation, including international cooperation. Therefore, we established an international center in the faculty a few years ago that deals with the faculty’s global relations. Over time, thanks to the support of the deans and the hard work of Matan Raz and Stephanie Schneor, we have partnered with more than 10 leading university hospitals in the U.S., Germany and Australia, mainly for student exchange.  I have no doubt that the exposure of our students to hospitals abroad gives them not only a great deal of knowledge but also a richer view of health systems overseas and makes them better doctors. In addition, the professional relationships that are forged with the medical staff abroad will accompany them during their medical careers.”

Prof. Simone Englander, a faculty member originally from Brazil, played an important role in creating the collaboration with the hospital. “Shortly before the outbreak of coronavirus, a large team of doctors from the hospital in Brazil came here and introduced us to each other… paving the way for future scientific research and collaboration,” she said.

“Electrical Engineering” Becomes “Electrical and Computer Engineering”

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“Electrical Engineering” Becomes “Electrical and Computer Engineering”

The Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Technion will henceforth be known as the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering – in light of evolving world trends and recent developments in the field

The Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering will change its name to The Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The addition of the term “Computer” to the title reflects a long process of expansion of the traditional electrical engineering discipline into numerous, diverse spheres related to computer engineering. The Technion Senate recently approved the change of name of the long-standing faculty, which is the largest in the Technion alongside the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science.

Faculty Dean Prof. Shimkin, Technion President Professor Uri Sivan and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jacob Ziv

The Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Technion was established 86 years ago, in 1935. In 1949, when the State of Israel celebrated its first birthday, the Electrotechnical Department was established under the leadership of Professor Franz Ollendorff, a world-renowned scientist and later recipient of the Israel Prize. In 1956, the faculty was relocated from the historical Technion building in the Hadar neighborhood to today’s campus, and in 1965 it was renamed the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

Since the faculty’s inception, its alumni have been driving the development of Israeli high-tech. In the words of its Dean Professor Nahum Shimkin, “The title ‘electrical engineering’ has accompanied us for more than five decades. We look back on our past achievements with pride and look ahead to the future and the technological advances yet to come. The present change is designed to reflect the broad fields of research and teaching at the faculty. As a modern, leading academic electrical and computer engineering department, our areas of specialization and research encompass most high-tech related disciplines, including microelectronics and nanoelectronics, electromagnetics and photonics, quantum technology, energy and power systems, electronic circuits and computer chip design, signal and image processing, machine learning and intelligent systems, robotics and control, communication engineering and information theory, computer communication networks, computer systems engineering, and more. Renaming the faculty and expanding its areas of activity are in line with the global trend, and particularly with the U.S., where most of the leading electrical engineering departments have already changed their names similarly.”

Technion President Professor Uri Sivan praised the decision and said, “This is a day of celebration. The change of name reflects the faculty’s most important feature – the ability to innovate and keep abreast of the latest trends and developments. By recruiting outstanding staff members, the faculty has succeeded in continuously broadening its fields of research and teaching, in maintaining its leading position in research in the global arena, and in making a great contribution to the Israeli economy. I know the faculty will not rest on its laurels but will continue to expand its areas of research and teaching into new and future worlds of technology.”

In a video greeting broadcast at the ceremony, Dr. Andrew Viterbi, after whom the faculty is named, said, “I am always happy to congratulate the Technion community – students, professors, and staff, and especially those in the faculty whose name is changing today.” Dr. Viterbi, one of the founders of Qualcomm, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm and past recipient of the IEEE Medal of Honor, made many major contributions to the faculty, the largest of which was $50 million in 2015.

“Electrical engineering and computer science could not exist without each other,” he said. “It’s clear that without the breakthroughs of the electronic engineers and physicists of the 1940s and 50s, there would be no computers in the 19th century, and on the other hand, Professor Charles Begge of Cambridge tried – and failed – to build a computer without electricity, so, today let us rejoice with a Shehecheyanu [prayer] at the recognition of the union between Electrical and Computer Engineering.”

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jacob Ziv , recipient of the Israel Prize and the EMET Prize for Art, Science and Culture, who recently won the IEEE Medal of Honor – the highest recognition of the international Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – said, “The faculty’s quality is grounded in three foundational pillars that provide reciprocal feedback: a rich study and research program that not only helps graduates to find jobs in industry, but also cultivates their ability to survive in a world of technological innovation; recruitment of the finest students, some of whom will want to progress to graduate studies and pursue research; and recruitment of excellent staff who will conduct future innovative, cutting-edge technology research.”

Faculty Dean Prof. Shimkin added, “This faculty, under its former name, which is proudly borne by more than fifteen thousand alumni, has a privileged standing in the development of the Israeli high-tech industry, and is world-renowned as a center of excellence in research and teaching. Under our new name, we will continue to aspire to carry out world-class cutting-edge research, providing our graduates with the finest engineering education available in all spheres of electrical engineering, electronics and computer engineering.”

Chairman of the Faculty Students Committee Elad Paritzki said, “We students at the faculty love the change of name because it represents the expansion of the faculty’s activities. This is a faculty that is characterized by a young, entrepreneurial spirit and a broad range of disciplines, and when I look back, I know that I made the right choice. On behalf of the students and alumni, I thank the faculty, which is a second home to us all.”

Technion Scientists Eliminate a Bottleneck on the Way to Sustainable Energy

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Technion Scientists Eliminate a Bottleneck on the Way to Sustainable Energy

There is much talk about green energy throughout the world. The Paris Agreement incentivizes switching to renewable energy sources, and indeed, green energy appears very attractive, with its promises of no pollution and no need to extract fossil fuels. The sun and the wind are there, and all we need do is harness them to produce electricity. On the face of it, those same factors should also make green energy cheaper to produce.

Professor Matthew Suss

What then stands in the way of shifting our energy production to these sustainable sources? And why hasn’t the world already shifted to renewable energy?

One of the challenges of switching energy production to sun and wind is their irregularity: wind rises or dies down. The sun rises and sets, or it is obscured by clouds. At times, energy production using these sources is effective, but at other times, production falls while consumption does not. A power plant that only provides electricity during the daylight hours, for example, cannot answer a population’s needs. It follows that energy must be produced when it can be, and stored, to be released when it is needed. In essence, a solar power plant would need to charge big batteries during the day, to be used during the night. Batteries of such scale, however, are very expensive, both in initial costs and in maintenance.

To understand why batteries are so expensive requires a closer look at how they function. For commercial use, flow batteries are used. They differ from dry batteries (commonly used in home devices) and lemon batteries (familiar from school experiments) in that the two electrolytes (liquids with dissolved positively and negatively charged particles) are not static, but pumped through the system. A selective membrane separating the two liquids prevents self-discharging. The interacting chemicals on two counter electrodes produce the electric current.

The membrane, unfortunately, is the most expensive element of the battery stack. Its price accounts for up to 40% of the initial costs of the battery stack. Furthermore, the membrane requires maintenance, and must be replaced continually due to wear. The electrolytes, in contrast, can last 20 years or more. Reducing the price of the membrane, or else finding a way to eliminate it, would provide a significant boost to the cost-effectivity of sustainable energy.

M.Sc. student Lihi Amit

This is exactly what Technion M.Sc. student Lihi Amit set out to achieve, under the supervision of Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Professor Matthew Suss from The Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program, and working together with Danny Naar, Dr. Robert Gloukhovski, in collaboration with Dr. Gerardo Jose la O’ from Primus Power Inc. Their recent article in ChemSusChem (link) was featured on the journal’s cover.

The researchers’ approach was to entirely eliminate the membrane. If the two electrolytes could flow together without intermixing, in a similar way to how oil and water can share a container without mixing, and only interact with each other in a controlled manner to produce an electric current, the need for the membrane would be eliminated. The team constructed a flow battery using bromine and zinc – cheap and readily available materials — and used a non-propriety complexing agent. The complexing agent trapped the bromine in bubble-like droplets, producing an oil-and-water effect, and releasing only as much bromine as was necessary at any given moment for maintaining the electric current. In effect, the expensive membrane of the battery was replaced with the cheap and fluid membrane of each individual droplet.

The study proved the feasibility of this novel approach to flow batteries and characterized its performance – a necessary step on the way to commercial use. One can hope that in the future cheap membraneless flow batteries will permit the widespread use of sustainable but inconstant energy sources.

Click here for the paper in ChemSusChem

Orr Zohar named 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholar

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Orr Zohar named 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholar

 The scholarship will fund Orr Zohar’s PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, where he hopes to develop biomedical imaging tools for neuroscience/neurosurgical navigation

Orr Zohar, who is currently completing his master’s degree in the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Technion, has been selected to continue his studies at Stanford University after being accepted to the prestigious Knight-Hennessy Scholars program. Zohar, 26, is the first Technion student to win the scholarship and is the first Israeli to be accepted to the program in the engineering discipline. He will use the scholarship to fund his PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, where he hopes to develop biomedical imaging tools for neuroscience/neurosurgical navigation.

“My interest inis not coincidental”, he says. “Throughout my childhood, my father has undergone several successful neurosurgical procedures. Unfortunately, about two years ago, our luck ran out and he suffered significant motor-speech impairments. The contrast between the outcomes of his past surgeries and this one highlighted for me the importance of building better tools for surgical navigation.” At the end of this summer, Zohar will be leaving to begin his doctorate at Stanford, where he will focus on the connection between computational photography – a technique that enhances or extends digital photography capabilities through the use of digital computation – and biomedical imaging.

Zohar began his studies at the Technion’s Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering, where, already in the first semester, he became actively involved in research in the university’s laboratories and was thus exposed to a wide variety of research fields. Moreover, he authored and published scientific articles while still studying for his bachelor’s degree – quite a rare achievement – and continued to do so during his graduate studies.

As an undergraduate, Zohar spent a summer at Stanford, working in the laboratory of Technion alumnus Professor Adam de la Zerda, where, for the first time, he was exposed to the connection between image processing, optics, and medical research. “The time I spent at Stanford,” he says, “profoundly impacted my interests – for the first time, I was exposed to research in the fields of biomedical imaging and image processing, which greatly influenced my academic direction.” Thus, while still completing his bachelor’s degree, Zohar began studying towards his master’s, majoring in signal processing, image processing, and machine learning. In parallel, he worked as a researcher in the Laboratory of Nanomaterial-based Devices, led by Professor Hossam Haick of the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering, where he developed flexible electronics and nanomaterial-based sensors for medical applications.

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program aims to develop a community of emerging leaders capable of working across disciplines and cultures while preparing them to address the world’s challenges through innovation and collaboration. The scholarship is considered one of the world’s most prestigious graduate-level scholarships, where outstanding students and promising leaders can pursue the graduate degree of their choice at Stanford. Funding includes tuition and associated fees, a living stipend, and is awarded to up to one hundred candidates from all over the world every year.

Second Israeli in Space will Take Three Technion Experiments to the ISS

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Second Israeli in Space will Take Three Technion Experiments to the ISS

The experiments were carefully selected by a scientific-technological committee appointed by the Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology; Eytan Stibbe is set to fly to the International Space Station in early 2022

Three Technion projects will be tested onboard the International Space Station, as part of the Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology’s “Rakia Mission.” The projects selected for the mission were announced today at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

Eytan Stibbe (right) with Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan

Speaking in the name of all winning projects, Prof. Moran Bercovici of the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering said this is “an adrenaline shot – there are no other words to describe what this mission does to the Israeli space community. This is an extraordinary opportunity on every scale. The schedule is crazy, the challenges are immense, but we will make it; this is in our Israeli DNA, this is what we’re good at. I want to thank all partners: the Ramon Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Israeli Space Agency and Rakia Mission’s scientific-technological committee. And a special thank you to Eytan Stibbe for his choice not to content himself with a personal experience, but to devote to science this amazing journey, on which he is taking us all.”

Eytan Stibbe with a lens in Bercovici lab

Eytan Stibbe, one of the founders of the Ramon Foundation, is set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in early 2022, as part of the Axiom Space Ax-1 Mission, pending NASA and Axiom approvals – the first mission to the Space Station manned entirely by private astronauts. This will make him the second Israeli in space, after Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia Space Shuttle accident.

Stibbe is expected to spend 200 hours on the International Space Station. He will carry out several experiments, offering an opportunity for Israeli researchers and entrepreneurs to examine the feasibility and viability of initiatives, and to advance space research and products. The experiments were recently selected by a science and technology committee appointed by the Ramon Foundation. This space mission assists in overcoming one of the main barriers to entering the aerospace industry – the high cost of astronaut hours for carrying out the research.

Prof. Moran Bercovici

Three revolutionary Technion projects were selected to be tested by Stibbe onboard the International Space Station:

The laboratory of Prof. Moran Bercovici at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering plans to demonstrate the first-ever fabrication of optical components in space. The Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE) was designed and built by Dr. Valeri Frumkin, Mor Elgarisi, and Omer Luria, under the guidance of Prof. Bercovici, in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA, led by Dr. Edward Balaban. The experiment onboard ISS will investigate the ability to leverage the microgravity environment to produce high-quality lenses by shaping liquids into a desired form, followed by their solidification. A successful demonstration onboard the ISS will pave the way for fabrication of advanced optical components in space, including the creation of extremely large space telescopes, overcoming today’s launch constraints.

Dr. Igal Kornhaus demonstrating the size of one CubeSat unit

The teams of Prof. Ehud Behar and Prof. Shlomit Tarem from the Physics Department, spearheaded by Ph.D. student Roi Rahin, are developing a gamma-ray burst localizing instrument – a device they named GALI. Gamma ray bursts are produced by exploding stars going to supernova, as well as by the collision of neutron stars. The same events also produce gravitational waves, bringing the study of the two phenomena into close association. The main challenge facing scientists is being able to localize in the sky where the gamma ray burst is coming from, which would then allow astronomers around the world to point their telescopes towards the event. GALI improves on earlier detectors by utilizing sensors significantly smaller than were previously used, arranged in an innovative 3D array. It is thanks to this unique arrangement that, while being much smaller than previous gamma-ray burst detectors, GALI promises to be more precise in its directionality capabilities.

Inbal Kreiss of the Ramon Foundation, Eytan Stibbe, and Ph.D. student Roi Rahin with the Tarem-Behar experiment

Finally, the Aerospace Plasma Lab, headed by Dr. Igal Kronhaus from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, is developing a tiny engine for CubeSats – miniature satellites made of cubic modules 10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm in size. Their engine, called “Inline-Screw-Feeding Vacuum-Arc-Thruster,” and fuel supply together are no bigger than a human finger, but can provide enough impulse to maintain a flight of satellites in a formation for months or more. The fuel, a small titanium wire, is safe to hold in one’s hand. The engine will be placed on the exterior of the International Space Station and be operated under conditions of hard vacuum and extreme temperatures.

Two more of the selected projects have their roots in the Technion: one comes from Aleph Farms – a cultured meat startup. Aleph Farms’ technology was developed b

The plasma trail of the engine in a vacuum tank in the Aerospace Plasma Lab (Kornhaus lab)

ased on Prof. Shulamit Levenberg’s research in the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering. The other is by OncoHost – a personalized cancer treatment startup, based on research conducted by Prof. Yuval Shaked of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine at the Technion.

All projects must now undergo a rigorous design review process in order to be ready to launch.

PTC Establishes R&D Center at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

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PTC Establishes R&D Center at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Long-term Strategic Collaboration Includes 15 Million New Israeli Shekel ($5 Million USD) Investment in Technion

BOSTON —  PTC (NASDAQ: PTC) has entered into a long-term strategic collaboration agreement with Technion – Israel Institute of Technology under which PTC will establish a Research & Development center and invest 15 million New Israeli Shekels ($5 million USD) into Technion’s Haifa campus. Under the terms of the agreement, PTC and Technion will jointly research and upgrade learning processes relating to advanced manufacturing technology. PTC’s Haifa development center will relocate to Technion under the leadership of Dr. Michael Reitman.

PTC has also allocated an annual budget for joint research in industrial IoT, augmented reality, simulation, and generative design. The allocation supports Technion faculty by providing software products; awarding scholarships and incentives to students and researchers; initiating hackathons and contests; and sponsoring educational programs.

L-R: Dr. Michael Reitman, Ziv Belfer , Professor Uri Sivan and Professor Boaz Golany


“Today, scientific and technological breakthroughs need both multidisciplinary research and close collaboration between academia and industry. Industry is at the forefront of active implementation and is well-acquainted with market needs, whereas academia brings basic scientific knowledge and research depth,” said Professor Uri Sivan, President, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. “This is why, in the past few years, Technion has placed greater emphasis on working to tighten its connections with industry, and the present agreement is the culmination of a long-standing relationship between Technion and PTC. We believe the agreement enables both parties to gain ground, grow, and reap the benefits of each other’s strengths.”

Announced in 2014, the initial agreement between PTC and Technion jumpstarted a robotics and digital content program for the Science and Technology department, including a teaching laboratory for industrial IoT, computer-aided design, manufacturing, and augmented reality, among other STEM topics. As a result of the long-standing collaboration, Technion alumni have joined PTC to lead the Company’s Haifa development center, PTC’s second largest center outside the U.S.

“The importance of collaboration between academia and industry is recognized worldwide,” said Ziv Belfer, Divisional Vice President of Global Research and Development and General Manager, PTC. “PTC has enjoyed fifteen years of successful collaboration with Aachen University in Germany, including the construction of a separate campus that also houses R&D laboratories for companies that collaborate with academic staff. Several projects subsequently became success markers for commercial companies, and we look forward to replicating these efforts with Technion in Israel.”


Technion President Professor Uri Sivan (on the right) and Ziv Belfer, Divisional Vice President of Global Research and Development and General Manager, PTC

PTC enables global manufacturers to realize double-digit impact with software solutions that enable them to accelerate product and service innovation, improve operational efficiency, and increase workforce productivity. In combination with an extensive partner network, PTC provides customers flexibility in how its technology can be deployed to drive digital transformation – on premises, in the cloud, or via its pure SaaS platform. At PTC, we don’t just imagine a better world, we enable it.